Fury

Review by Adam Woodward @AWLies

Directed by

David Ayer

Starring

Brad Pitt Logan Lerman Shia LaBeouf

Anticipation.

Pitt vs Fritz.

Enjoyment.

Great work from Pitt and co. Ayer lays it on a bit thick though.

In Retrospect.

The battle scenes stick in the mind like hot shrapnel.

Brad Pitt surveys the horrors of war a busted-up tank in David Ayer’s soulful if unoriginal tale of conflict and brotherhood.

The stench of death and diesel hangs heavy in the air in David Ayer’s Fury, a film that with grim relish provides a stark reminder (if ever one was needed) of the indelible horrors of war. It may not be a Dantean warning that’s emblazoned along the barrel of the eponymous war machine, but from the outset it’s clear in which direction we’re headed.

April, 1945. In desperation Hitler has ordered every man, woman and child to defend the remaining Nazi-occupied strongholds at whatever cost. Leading the Allied charge is a US tank unit commanded by Don “Wardaddy” Collier (Brad Pitt), who by some small miracle, has so far managed to keep his promise and keep his crew alive. They began the War together killing Germans in Africa, then France, Belgium, now they find themselves in unfamiliar territory; killing Germans in Germany. Victory is within sight, but as Collier prophetically cautions, the killing’s not done yet.

After the crew’s assistant driver is killed in action, Collier is assigned an inexperienced young recruit named Norman Ellison (the excellent Logan Lerman), who’s trained to change ribbons, not magazines. He’s apologetic, unprepared and completely out of his depth. But this is no time for empathy and a kind word of encouragement. Not when there are so many lives still at risk. So Collier gives Norman a few harsh lessons in the realities of war, and the film gradually shifts focus to that well-worn war movie motif – the boy soldier forced to become a man on the battlefield.

Lucky for Norm, he’s learning from the best. Years spent sealed inside this cold, steel casket may have taken its toll on the rest of the crew – Shia LaBeouf, Michael Peña and Jon Bernthal convincingly exhibiting early signs of post-traumatic stress disorder – but Pitt’s no-nonsense Sarge remains an authoritative, stoic presence. Pitt wears his years well here, his soulful, battle-scarred face giving added gravitas to each chest-swelling monologue about honour and brotherhood. Essentially he’s playing a straighter, less cartoonish version of his character in Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds, the witless chutzpah replaced by a paternal altruism that positions him as a more conventional goodie.

In examining camaraderie and spirit from this claustrophobic, pressure-cooker perspective, Ayer’s film bears some resemblance to Samuel Maoz’s Lebanon from 2009. The major difference being where that film eschewed action in favour of human drama, Fury boasts it in spades. Yet while we’re used to watching scenes of grisly, gut-wrenching conflict unfold on the beaches and in the trenches, Ayer chooses to stage the bulk of the action inside and immediately around the tank. These notoriously cumbersome vehicles hardly lend themselves to high-tension spectacle, so it is to the director’s credit that he manages to elicit such a visceral response to the film’s action centrepieces. A scene in which our heroes’ inferior M4 Sherman goes up against a mighty German Tiger in a mud-caked field is a triumph of cinematic technique.

Thrilling action aside, however, does Ayer actually bring anything new to the table here? Not really. Granted this is a well-mined subject, but when a film depicts an exhaustively studied historic event with ear-punching authenticity without making any attempt to add to or challenge the dialogue surrounding it, its agenda (and in this case its jingoistic subtext) becomes problematic. Most disconcerting of all is the passive manner in which the film complies with the Hollywood-approved custom of caricaturing all German soldiers as sneering, shadow-lurking gargoyles. “If you thought the Nazis were bad…!” As with his previous films, Sabotage and End of Watch, then, Fury proves Ayer to be an uncompromising, unprogressive filmmaker.

Published 21 Oct 2014

Tags: Brad Pitt Shia LaBeouf

Anticipation.

Pitt vs Fritz.

Enjoyment.

Great work from Pitt and co. Ayer lays it on a bit thick though.

In Retrospect.

The battle scenes stick in the mind like hot shrapnel.

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