Columbia Pictures(NEW YORK) — Fury takes place at the end of World War 2. The conflict is clearly over for Hitler and everybody knows it, except Hitler. War is already brutal and dangerous, but it’s even more so when your enemy is desperate, and the remaining Nazis are very desperate and unimaginably brutal. To deal with them, the most hardened, skilled soldiers are called in to lead the final push into Germany.
We first meet Brad Pitt’s Don “Wardaddy” Collier in the aftermath of a battle, on a field barely visible through the literal fog of war. Using what appears to be an unmanned, damaged tank for cover, he knocks a mounted German soldier from his horse and kills him with his bare hands. Collier then gently takes the horse by the reins, lovingly strokes its mane, looks it in its eyes and sets it free. It’s the first of many scenes in Fury that highlight the incongruous nature of war.
Turns out the tank, dubbed “Fury,” wasn’t unmanned after all. Collier climbs in and we meet the rest of the crew: Swan (Shia LaBeouf), Garcia (Michael Peña) and Travis (John Bernthal). They’re a dysfunctional band of brothers, living from second to second in a mobile iron box, surrounded and accompanied by death — and we’re along for the ride.
When they get back to base, fresh-faced kid Norman Ellison (Logan Lerman) introduces himself as the new member of the team. Ellison was a clerk and has no battle experience whatsoever, but this is the end of the war and it’s all hands on deck. The kid doesn’t want to be there and the guys, given Norman’s lack of experience or enthusiasm, don’t really want him there either. It won’t be long before we discover Norman’s ambivalence will become a complete liability.
How Collier and company handle Norman is a showcase of deft writing, acting and directing, of which this movie has many. Particularly stunning is a scene in which Collier and Norman enter the apartment of two German women in a town they just liberated. While the rest of the soldiers are in the streets celebrating, the war-hardened soldier and the boy who’s learning to be a soldier experience a taste of normalcy, but a reality check comes knocking on the door when the rest of the unit, drunk, enters the apartment and antagonizes their brothers in arms, and the women. It will leave a lump in your throat a few tears in your eyes.
Fury is not a great World War 2 film, but it is one of the better ones. Absolutely no punches are pulled here in displaying the anxious, intense, horrific and violent nature of battle, while at the same time exploring the camaraderie and hearts of the men who lived and died in the midst of it. Writer/director and producer David Ayer is carving a niche for himself with films that explore male bonding in extraordinary, life-threatening situations. There were flashes of that theme early in his career but his brilliance became apparent in 2012’s cop drama End of Watch, which also starred Pena, alongside Jake Gyllenhaal.
There is brilliance in Fury, but Ayer sells out a bit when this very human story at times becomes too Rambo-esque. And I get it: it’s probably what he needed to do to get Hollywood to pony up for a film that is otherwise a seemingly true-to-life war tale – perhaps too true-to-life. Even so, it’s one worth seeing.
Four out of five stars.
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