In honor of Memorial Day weekend, I figured what better movie to review than a war film about American heroes during WWII. I’m choosing Fury because 1) I recently watched it and 2) I think it’s a decent war film. I’m not knocking on the greats like Apocalypse Now, Black Hawk Down, The Hurt Locker or Saving Private Ryan whatsoever by not choosing them. Brad Pitt (Don “Wardaddy” Collier) makes a less scalp happy return to WWII playing a leading commander of a Sherman tank crew in Nazi Germany near the end of the war. If you don’t understand what I mean by scalp happy, I suggest watching Inglorious Bastards. Surrounding Brad as a supporting cast includes Shia Labeouf, Michael Pena, John Bernthal, Scott Eastwood, and Logan Lerman. Lerman (Norman Ellison) plays a fresh-faced recruit who gets reassigned to Wardaddy’s crew, knowing nothing about how to be an assistant tank driver. His experience is evident when failing at taking a shot at the enemy who then blows up a tank. Wardaddy reprimands Norman, accordingly, since he cost American lives. The one thing I love about a great war film is the growing pains a new recruit goes through; they need to step up despite being scared out of their minds for their life. Only the best actors know how to play afraid meaning, that character is afraid to take a life and you see the anguish on their face as they let a situation go by that could potentially affect the outcome of a battle. Lerman did a decent job playing that frightened new recruit who doesn’t know how to fire a weapon and vomits at the smell of the odor of a dead body.
Another thing that a war film must get right to be considered among the greats is the bond and brotherhood that the main and supporting characters have with each other. When we first meet Boyd (Labeouf), Trini (Pena), and Grady (Berrnthal), the bond they share with Wardaddy is unbreakable, they are a unit who move like one person. They understand each other and most importantly, they trust each other. If that trust isn’t there, the war is lost. Director David Ayer uses the cliché archetypes for these characters that are usually used in war films, so we already know a lot about each of these characters without hearing too much dialogue and interaction with each other. It’s not necessarily a bad thing but, other films have done a better job with the writing of these characteristics. The main reason to see this film is for the war and fighting itself. The tank battles are incredible but, you have to wonder how accurate these battles were and what fictional liberties were taken to make the action the best it could be. Where Fury stands out is in the ferocity and viciousness Ayer brings showing how damaging war can really be. It can be difficult to capture that rawness, but I think Ayer did a fairly good job.
There are a few scenes that stick out over the majority of the film that are powerful war movie scenes. The first is when Wardaddy forces Norman to kill the one soldier who surrenders. Norman looks incredibly uncomfortable given that the entire platoon of 3 tank crews have formed a circle and are watching the event take place. Acting or not, that amount of pressure to take someone’s life while you still have your soul and your commanding officer breathing down your neck to follow his orders in insurmountable. It was one of the better scenes of the film that really caught my eye on how brutal the two sides were to each other.
The second scene that stands out to me is the take battle when the platoon makes a temporary stop in the small town. Norman and Wardaddy go off into a building where they find two German women. The scene that follows when the rest of the crew enters the apartment is filled with tension and anger. It’s a gripping scene and the actions of the crew are so unpredictable. I felt we all saw Norman’s turning point from recruit who is still afraid of war (even though he guns down some enemies during a battle) to an actual soldier who knows he’s there for a reason and that is to not let the rest of his team down. You can see the second guessing going on inside his head and the pent-up frustration he has. At this point in the war, the allies were so close to victory, Norman’s only train of thought is to survive. The third and final scene I really liked a lot is the final showdown battle between unbeatable odds of 300 to 5. If you do the math, each crew member will have to take out 60 German soldiers. The rest of the crew is ready to flee while Wardaddy makes his plea to stay and fight with him. Norman is the only one and the rest reluctantly stay. I enjoy action in a film but, the action has to push the story forward. Granted it’s the final battle so this action is really pushing the characters forward. It’s a great scene, the action is well done, and you truly see the evolution in Norman being accepted as one of their own.
Fury is a film I liked and enjoyed but didn’t love. There are other war films are more put together, shot better and have better writing, characters, and action. If revisited in a decade other films like Apocalypse Now, Saving Private Ryan, American Sniper, Hurt Locker and so on will still have a leg up on Fury. This film was the beginning of the resurrection of Shia’s career as he is a solid choice. John Bernthal will always be one of my favorites as he dishes out a good performance and Michael Pena proves he’s more than just a comedic actor along with a separate dramatic role in End of Watch. If there ever is a war film marathon, Fury should be added to the beginning to save the more classic films for the end.
Fury is written and directed by David Ayer is rated R and has a runtime of 2 hours and 15 minutes. Fury was released on October 15th, 2014 and can be purchased digitally on Itunes, Vudu or other retailers.
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