MOVIE REVIEW: ‘Fury’ Offers A Haunting and Thrilling Vision Of World War II

Film: Fury
Starring: Brad Pitt, Logan Lerman
Directed By: David Ayer

Fury is a violent film about bad men doing bad things in the heart of Nazi-occupied Germany at the tail end of World War II. It’s the complete opposite of a feel-good film, but it just might be one of the year’s best cinematic experiences.

The men who inhabit the tank known as Fury are not a group of people you would normally think to pair together. You have a fearless leader who’s seen it all, the war-worn young man clinging to the hope that God has good plans for the crew’s future, a maniac who somehow passed his mental evaluations, and a driver who never questions what he’s told to do. Together these men have survived countless battles, killed hundreds of people, and somehow through it all managed to grow into something akin to a family unit. When we meet them, a fifth team member has just been killed, and it’s through the eyes of his replacement that our story unfolds.

The newest recruit to the Fury crew has never seen the inside of a tank prior to being assigned his position. In fact, he’s only been in the army a handful of weeks, and the majority of that time has been spent training to work in areas that would likely never see combat. The crew can sense the lack of experience from the moment they lay eyes on their new recruit, but recognizing the fact they too were once in his shoes they do their best to be patient with him. This is one of very few times in Fury when someone is given any kind of a break/pass, and it only occurs so that we are able to get things in motion without too much needless exposition.

Fury shines brightest when its leads are confined to the tiny space inside what is essentially their gun-filled mobile home. The cramped quarters make conversation a must, and the cast has a brilliant script at their disposal. There is a shocking lack of character development beyond the aforementioned team member descriptions, but as the story carries on Ayer makes use of the somewhat stiff personalities to create memorable moments that run the gamut from comedy to tension and back again. The same characters who joke together early on eventually wind up at one another’s throats, but given the absolute necessity of having each other aboard the tank for survival we’re also able to witness how they put tensions to the side in order to survive. It’s a rare series of moments in film that care less about problem resolution and more with making you feel like you are a fly on the wall for something that thrived long before you arrived. You’re not bearing witness to beginning, middle, and end, but rather joining hardened soldiers well into the second or third of a journey that has erased almost every sign of the people they were prior to joining the armed forces.

David Ayer has built a reputation for handheld filmmaking that has delivered a mixed bag of visceral and nauseating thrills in recent years. Fury abandons the so-called realism of shakey camera work and instead delivers a beautiful and blue-tinged war epic that embraces tripods and related camera aides like no other Ayer work in recent memory. The camera moves in ways that often make it seem like no human could be controlling it, which is probably because the closest human is using a remote control fifteen yards from the nearest lens. It’s a nice change of pace for Ayer, and it makes the moments when tensions do rise far more enjoyable. The battle scenes are not hard to see due to shakiness, but impeccably clear and horrific. Ayer wants you to see and appreciate what one man can do to another. What that entails may haunt some, but it’s a necessary move in order to properly express the mindset of those who reside within Fury’s metal walls.

There is an ageless saying about how war changes men, and in Fury that is most evident in the young recruit we meet early on. His innocent eyes are quickly shown the terrors of war, and as he takes in more and more violences his resistance to the idea of killing another man drops to the point of non-existence. He becomes one with the hardened men of Fury, and in doing so learns to better appreciate all they have gone through in order to still be fighting in the heart of Germany. This forges a connection between the whole team that allows them to face their biggest opponent to date, a 300-strong SS battalion, with only their tank and the ammunition contained within.

As the third act’s epic battle begins to play out you might be overcome by the sensation that you’ve witnessed similar moments play out in countless other war films. What Fury lacks in originality is more than made up for with strong performances, including a career resurrecting turn from Shia Labeouf. His role as a god-fearing man with too many bad memories for any amount of drink to erase is both engaging and incredibly heartbreaking. You want to hold him from the first minute his fears become known, and that feeling only intensifies as the events of the film begin to play out.

There are war films that promote the idea of killing another human in the name of a country or belief as a glorious accomplishment capable of turning any girl or boy into a man or woman that others should admire, but nothing like that can be found anywhere in Fury. David Ayer has created a dense, dark, and unforgettable journey into the awful things we do to one another in order to survive. There is no mention or country or pride to be found anywhere in the film’s two-hour runtime because it’s not a story people should be proud to tell, but it’s very important such stories are told. People need to face the realities of war, and Fury does just that while also providing a thrilling narrative delivered by some of the industry’s best talent. You won’t leave happy, but you will be grateful for the experience.


Review written by James Shotwell

James Shotwell
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