Genre: Drama, Action and Adventure
Director: David Ayer
Cast: Brad Pitt, Shia LaBeouf, Logan Lerman, Michael Peña, Jon Bernthal, Jason Isaacs, Scott Eastwood
Release Date: October 17th, 2014
“Do as you’re told. Don’t get too close to anyone.”
Those words are the sage advice that Don ‘Wardaddy’ Collier (Brad Pitt) offers naïve officer Norman Ellison (Logan Lerman) after Ellison is assigned to ride in Collier’s tank in the new war drama Fury. After only eight weeks in the Army (where he was originally tasked with being a typist), information pills Ellison is forced to the front lines, case where he is faced with the sacrifices and ugliness that war has to offer.
The violent motion picture offers up a close-up shot of World War II as it focuses in on a small tank crew, who are facing off against the Germans in April of 1945. At that time in history (according to the text at the film’s beginning), the war was almost over and the Allies were facing the hardest and cruelest members of the Nazi party on their home turf.
Collier is the leader of the tank crew here and Ellison is assigned to it after one of the tank’s machine gunners was killed in an earlier battle. Ellison is young, naïve and ill-prepared to see the war firsthand. As fellow officer Boyd ‘Bible’ Swan (Shia Labeouf, in one of his best performances) notes, “Wait until you see…what a man can do to another man.” His sentiments foreshadow what Elllison is confronted with during the war. Along with Collier, Swan and Ellison, the rest of the tank’s crew is composed of the likeable Trini ‘Gordo’ Garcia (Michael Pena) and the cold-hearted Grady ‘Coon-Ass’ Travis (Jon Bernthal).
Much of the drama here arises from Ellison’s harsh training on the battlefield. After he misses an opportunity to kill a German soldier early on, Collier pushes him to his limits by forcing him to shoot a Nazi officer who had already surrendered.
Writer/director David Ayer has an eye for showing the grittiness of violence while also honing in on the fraternal bonding of men who are given difficult assignments. In End of Watch (2012), he offered an intense and emotional look at two police partners stationed in a bad neighborhood. In Training Day (2001), he focused on partners as well— only that time, one of the partners was a manipulative psychopath. Here Ayer brings both his usual grit and his fraternal dialogue to a war setting and does it admirably enough, showing the camaraderie between this divergent band of brothers.
At times though, the script does leave some emotional gaps. A long sequence that takes place in a German apartment doesn’t work as well as it could’ve because what starts out as a tense moment eventually leads to an awkward meet cute moment between Ellison and a young German woman. Their brief relationship seems odd and out-of-place here, considering the hell that Ellison recently witnessed. Additionally, the final battle sequence has a Rambo-esque quality to it that seems a bit over the top. During that scene, we root for the main characters but know that their success feels undeniably unrealistic when they are faced with hundreds of German troops.
Regardless of its flaws though, Ayer uses his admirable talents to paint a bleak and unforgettable portrait of a tank’s crew suffering through the end of the war here. Instead of spending all of his time in battle, he smartly chooses to show these characters as people who are faced with a daunting war that never seems to end. Lerman delivers a strong performance here as does LaBeouf, who thankfully seems to be graduating to more thoughtful roles.
As a motion picture, Fury does have its flaws but it rises above them time after time offering up its bleak but undeniably tense depiction of war.
Review by: John Hanlon