Fury is written and directed by David Ayer who is probably best known for End of Watch (2012) although he also wrote Training Day (2001). The film boasts a strong cast that is led by Brad Pitt and includes Logan Lerman, Shia LaBeouf, Michael Pena and Jon Bernthal.
The film takes place over the course of a day of in 1945 as the allied forces are now in German territory and trying to make the last big push to Berlin. They are up against a mix of fanatical Waffen SS regiments, the dregs of the regular army and children and old men pressed into service by the desperate Nazi regime. Norman Ellison (Lerman) is a greener than green recruit who has been working as a admin clerk before being pulled of a lorry and dispatched to the front. He is forced to try and replace an assistant driver who was part of a tightly knit tank crew led by Don Collier (Pitt).
Fury is a tough, grueling watch and there’s no getting away from the fact that you’re going to get a fair splattering of blood and burning bodies. One of the key strengths of the film is the tense, oppressive atmosphere it creates where death can come at any moment. I felt the never ending tension for most of the movie and definitely felt a little jittery as I left the cinema. There is a scene in a German town where Collier leads Ellison into a building where he forces entry into an apartment and it is unclear just want he wants with a young lady who is hiding there. This scene appears to be splitting critics but I thought the attempt to introduce some normalcy into the madness of war worked well.
The other strength of the film is the main cast. David Ayer does a good job of keeping the scale of the film small and personal. The focus is on the five guys in the tank – the film doesn’t have a clear end game until the final act. Brad Pitt does an excellent turn as the brutalised ‘Wardaddy’ who feels compelled to induct young Norman into the grim reality of fighting with the Germans ASAP. He’s made a promise to his crew that they’re going to survive the war and he isn’t going to let this snotty nosed youngster stop him from delivering on his word.
Logan Lerman, who I last saw as Ham in Noah (2014), does a fine job as the new recruit wondering if there’s been a mistake and just how is he going to pull the trigger and kill another human being. Entering the front line he has a clear moral compass and a distinction of what is right and wrong. He is tested and ultimately broken as he is forced to deal with the harsh reality of kill or be killed. The transition was arguably rushed but it has to happen within the timescales of the films run time so it is what it is. Grady Travis (Bernthal) is a borderline animal who comes across as distinctly unhinged after years of fighting and finds Norman’s unease distinctly funny.
Unfortunately the films apocalyptic ending is its greatest weakness. Without saying too much it’s classic Hollywood and is out of touch with the rest of the film. You will already know from the trailer that the tank crew are forced to fight 300 highly trained German soldiers with a busted tank. The way this is set up is painful to watch and completely unnecessary. While the film yearns for authenticity I have to say it was awful quiet inside that tank when the main gun was firing and the engine was going – I suspect this made it easier to record the cast.
In summary this film packed an emotional punch for me and I really ‘enjoyed’ it. It was really intriguing to watch a film where the story was almost incidental. Fury is about living the lives of the five tank crew and getting to grips with the horror of war. You don’t get the smells or the feel of the mud between your fingers but that is something we should all be thankful for. But why oh why did we have to have that ending?