Aptly titled with a gutsy delivery.
It’s hard to imagine much originality stemming from any new or forthcoming World War II movies. This was my thought back in 2009 before Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds was released, offering audiences a completely new vision of the second world war and delivering never-before-seen perspectives with style. This isn’t to say that that film revitalized the genre, but it kinda did. The newest World War II tale, Fury, starring Basterds alum Brad Pitt, offers a focus we haven’t seen much of (tank vs. tank battles), but otherwise a lot of the same gruesomeness and gritty warfare and dehumanized soldiers we’ve seen before. If it weren’t for a lack of strong character development, Fury could have been a war classic. Fury is a strong entry into the World War II genre, focusing on a much-passed over yet crucial deadly type of war machine (again, tanks), yet still overtly showcasing the horrors and disturbing nature of war.
Brad Pitt stars as Don ‘Wardaddy’ Collier, a seasoned Allied forces sergeant leading a Sherman tank’s five man crew in the final stretch of the war, circa April 1945. Just before being sent on a dangerous mission to secure and protect a crucial crossroads point, a young rookie soldier (played by Logan Lerman) is assigned to Wardaddy’s crew to replace one of their lost gunmen. And so the rookie must learns the ropes amidst war atrocities, and when their tank becomes the final roadblock between a large German SS batallion (~300 strong) and the Allied forces’ supply lines, they must risk all to hold their ground.
Fury writer/director David Ayer assembled the five man tank crew straight from classic cliches — the ruffian (Jon Bernthal), the ethnic jokester (Michael Peña), the soft-spoken Christian (Shia LaBeouf), the newbie (Lerman), and the hard-nosed leader (Pitt). *Let’s quickly give a shout out to Saving Private Ryan for not falling victim to relying on a motley crew to run their story.* There are enough contrivances in Fury to infuriate the average cinephile, but enough intensity and a quick pace to please casual viewers. When Wardaddy and the rookie find themselves attempting civilized behavior with two (coincidentally beautiful) German women in a newly captured town flat, Fury takes a moment to breath and give audiences a dose of, I think, a message promoting peace and tranquility. It doesn’t last long, however, because…
…Fury is an angry film with a lot of violence and explosions. The main characters aren’t just fighting a war, they’re ripping German soldiers apart. They shout as they mow Nazi soldiers down, stab them, run them over, and blow them to bits. It’s all shown to us. There are a few moments when Fury becomes borderline ‘war-porn’, but that isn’t to say it’s 100% celebratory. The intensity level goes so high, it becomes a blur of violence and I was unsure who and what I was supposed to be cheering for. A similar, but smarter, scene occurred in this summer’s Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. Fury, like Dawn, is about the horrors of war and human nature. Plain and simple. It may feature some heart-pounding tank battles, and depict some quick acts of valor and sentimentality, but in the end, this is a war horror film.
And now for the moment I’ve been dreading for a while. I’ll be blunt: Shia LaBeouf is excellent in Fury. The actor that I have continually considered to be overhyped, unruly, and a detriment to many otherwise solid films (not including Transformers), has turned the page here. He has risen to an acting maturity level in Fury that I couldn’t foresee happening for at least another five to ten years. As the stoic, level-headed Christian in the crew, Shia’s character is the glue that holds the different personalities together, and he nails it. And then there are more explosions and gunfire and guts and screaming and little glory.
Fury opens in theaters Friday, October 17th.