Review: Fury

Brad Pitt;Shia LaBeouf;Logan Lerman;Michael Pena;Jon Bernthal

There is a reason that more films are made about World War II than just about any other war in human history. There have been longer conflicts, and undoubtedly as many or more compelling narratives, but few others marked such an immediate turning point of not just individual nations, but western civilization at large. Indeed, the 20th century itself can be demarcated at everything that occurred before Adolf Hitler invaded Poland, and after the atomic bomb was dropped. When looking at the numbers of soldiers who fought and died in battle, its difficult to fathom each human life that comprises those statistics. Millions of minor breakthroughs by individuals led to the outcome of the war, and David Ayer’s Fury puts the spotlight on five men on the front lines. While its narrative arc and themes are familiar, Fury sinks its boots deep in the grime, and finds solid performances from its cast and exhilaratingly robust action.

The twilight of the bloodiest conflict in human history is at hand. It is April 1945, and Allied forces are already deep inside Germany, making a push for Berlin. The crew of the Sherman tank “Fury” led by Sergeant Don “Wardaddy” Collier’s (Brad Pitt) is all that remains of their regiment, having lost one of their own gunners in battle. The replacement is Norman Ellison (Logan Lerman), a baby faced typist with no tank or combat experience, fresh in the military for a scant eight weeks. As the crew of “Fury” roll deeper into enemy territory, Norman is faced with the painful realities of war, and the crew’s loyalty to each other will be tested.

For a time period in which there are hundreds of incredible true accounts from the front lines, it is a bit curious that writer/director David Ayer chose to tell a story about a fictional group of soldiers. Despite this, Fury does commendable work in defining its core characters. Brad Pitt might not break new ground as the head of his tank, but his square jawed, clear eyed performance remains an anchor for the film, while also shading a few additional layers in certain scenes. Logan Lerman is the clear avatar for the audience and naturally turns in the film’s most identifiable performance, often overwhelmed with his new duties and learning to conform to the demands “Wardaddy” puts on him. For example, an earlier grueling moment where Norman is publicly pressured by “Wardaddy” to shoot an unarmed German soldier carries significant heft. The rest of the crew has a little less to chew on, but Shia LaBoeuf, Michael Pena, and Jon Bernthal all contribute to the camaraderie inside the metallic beast.

Ever since Saving Private Ryan depicted the ferocity of the D-Day invasion with a handheld aesthetic, countless war films have followed suit in trying to convey that sense of realism. A significant amount of credit should go to Fury for bucking against that trend. As lensed on film by Roman Vasyanov, the photography is consistently locked down on a tripod or dolly, with deliberate movements to reflect the lumbering vehicles housing these men. There are dozens of gorgeously lit compositions as well, but that does not imply that Fury glamorizes the experience of war. Norman learns this the hard way, as his first task for his men is to clean up the remains of his predecessor inside the tank. Coupled with the striking photography is the editing, which especially stands out in the key action sequences. War films have a tendency to emulate the chaotic nature of combat through editorial, and rightfully so, but it’s hard to think of a recent scene as compelling as two opposing tanks dancing around each other, each waiting for the right moment to fire. Unfortunately the score by Steven Price is a sore thumb, which often sounds too similar to his ethereal work on Gravity, whereas Fury desires something more percussive.

If Fury treads familiar thematic territory, then it does add an important shade to the family dynamic of the crew. These men are by no means the best of friends, for they are often at each others throats, but at the end of every battle they can’t imagine fighting alongside anyone else. There is no irony in their unifying proclamation, “Best job I ever had.” It’s interesting to note that these men aren’t given much individual backstory, and therefore there is an immediacy to being with them from moment to moment. Fury seems to be saying that war is about living in the present, with no past and no future.

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~ by romancinema on October 25, 2014.

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