Director: David Ayer
Writer: David Ayer
Stars: Brad Pitt, Shia LaBeouf, Logan Lerman
David Ayers Fury is actually one of the better war films involving tank warfare, but if you’re something of an anal World War II aficionado then it’s probably not the film for you regardless. Set in April 1945, at the tail end of said war, it follows the heroics of a Sherman tank crew as they make their way into Germany to bring about an end to the conflict at last. The German soldiers, by this point deeply entrenched, well up for a prolonged fight and steadfastly hanging onto their fanaticism, even despite their growing misfortunes, have other ideas however.
Nope, there’s no renewed focus on the Battle of the Bulge in the densely forested Ardennes or any real historical battles for that matter. The former is already long gone when Fury hits our screen. The Germans are already surrendering in their droves and in the absence of an actual real life depiction is the fictitious exploits of Sgt. Don ‘Wardaddy’ Collier. Don is a battle hardened tank commander who has, against all the odds, managed to lead his crew from North Africa to Germany. That’s no mean feat in a conflict that was notoriously unkind to tanks, so you see he’s not a man to be trifled with. Of course, not everybody in his crew made it through in one piece and it’s at that junction that the film begins.
Ayer introduces the four veteran crew members in a striking opening scene, involving a positively regal looking German officer, riding a dashing white stallion. You’d be forgiven for thinking there was a brief time slip into an alternate reality as he surveys the aftermath of a unnamed battle. The reality of the German situation soon returns however when Collier pounces from his seemingly abandoned tank to brutally take the man down. The others, in the process of performing a quick mechanical repair throw insults around, giving an early hint that they’ve been together a while and seen some shit. Having clearly grown close and christened each other with nicknames, they include; Boyd ‘Bible’ Swan (Shia LeBeouf); Trini ‘Gordo’ Garcia (Michael Peña) and Grady ‘Coon-ass’ Travis (Jon Bernthal).
There’s one man missing, the recently departed ‘Red’. An ironically perverse nickname, because all that remains of his presence within the cramped confines of the tank is a hideously, realistically, recreated piece of scalp (well done FX people) and copious amounts of blood. The others clearly still mourning his loss aren’t in any mood to deal with his nervous, boyish, replacement upon arriving back at their base camp and quickly task him with cleaning the gory mess. And believe me, Norman Ellison (Logan Lerman) doesn’t want to be there any more than they want him to be there. Plucked from a clerical position, he’s of the sensitive variety and not remotely up for the dangers of front line fighting.
This doesn’t sit at all well with Wardaddy, a man who’s earned his crews respect for being a strangely conflicted, disciplinarian, father figure. After asking the young chap if he’s “done much killing?”, he decides tough love is the best way to, well, toughen him up. How does he do this? By slapping him around a little and forcing a gun into his hand, before firing it in the direction of a German prisoner. The development of Norman was a little stereotypical, corny and crudely executed for me. Ayer laid on the sensitivity of the character a little too thickly, which having him play piano in a young German woman’s house (actually one of my favourite scenes incidentally, purely for the interesting dynamic that plays out between the crew) to further highlight, perfectly summed up.
It’s an action film at heart though, and in its defence, doesn’t really require any complicated, fleshed out personalities or even complex thematics to be any good. It just needs something resembling a plot, eye catching visuals and a decent cast. It has at least two of those. I’m actually still not sure what the story was about, out with Norman’s personal journey and blowing shit up? Visually, it really is quite something though. From the sets, period costume designs, all the way to the tank/s themselves. It certainly feels like World War II and the gore was ratcheted up to stomach churning levels. Heads and limbs are blown off, and bodies are crushed under the tracks of the tank. That showdown between the Tiger and the Sherman’s was certainly enjoyable too and they did a very decent job of filming inside the tight interior of the tank.
It does have a very decent cast too, there can be no complaints there. Brad Pitt is pretty damn good in his role as Wardaddy. Yes, it has shades of Aldo Raine, but he plays the battle hardened role so well and Collier alongside Norman is perhaps the only character I felt any emotional connection with (even then it was minute). Logan Lerman is the standout here however. His character has by far the most the development (even if it isn’t amazingly executed) and depth. He puts in a believable and excellent performance as young man living the horrors of war. Out of the other three main protagonists Shia LeBeouf edges it, well he more than edges to be fair, as Bible. I don’t particularly like the guy off screen, but he’s practically unrecognisable in this role and I can’t fault him. Bernthal and Peña were fine without excelling.
In fairness though, I can’t be too overly critical of any of their performances, because in all honesty, they worked wonders with fairly two dimensional characters that, like I said, besides Don and Norman lacked any depth or personality. And that right there is the main gripe I have with this film. The story is unmemorable and slightly rubbish. It basically follows the crew as they go from one generic skirmish to another with the odd recuperation between. The final stand that pitted the five against a SS platoon was a head scratcher, telegraphed and came across as a weird rip-off of Saving Private Ryan. Unlike that film, I was never truly invested in any of the main characters and so had no emotional investment in their inevitable deaths. Ayer (spoiler alert) killed them off one by one and I genuinely didn’t care, which shouldn’t be the case.
Having said that now, would I recommend this film? Hmm… it’s a tough one. It’s still a decent action flick and as long as you go in with zero expectation of anything more then some enjoyment could still be taken. So depending on who you are, yes and no.