War films… can be brutal; there’s no denying it. I really can’t think of any war film (that I’ve seen at least) that wasn’t brutal in some way, shape, or form. I mean, would you ever make a lighthearted film based on some of the darkest moments of human history? Odds are you probably wouldn’t because ‘war is hell’ and we have certainly seen that through other famous war films like ‘Schindler’s List’, ‘Flags of our Fathers’, and arguably the most famous war film of the modern era, ‘Saving Private Ryan’. This idea of the horrors of war is also showcased in the latest war flick, ‘Fury’, the second major film of the year directed by David Ayer (most famous for writing the film ‘Training Day’) following the release of ‘Sabotage’ back in March. ‘Fury’ admittedly can be very brutal at times as is common with war films, and it is also very grim. In fact, this film is arguably grimmer than it is brutal. But even with that in mind, ‘Fury’ is still an extremely riveting war drama featuring a top notch cast of leads and some truly exceptional action sequences. Yes, it’s very hard to watch at times but many other war films have been as well. This one is no exception.
The film takes place in April 1945 near the end of the European Theater section of World War II as the Allied forces begin to make their final push into Nazi Germany. We primarily follow the five-man crew of a Sherman tank nicknamed “Fury” led by Staff Sergeant Don “Wardaddy” Collier (Brad Pitt), with the main crew consisting of himself, Boyd “Bible” Swan (Shia LaBeouf), Trini “Gordo” Garcia (Michael Pena), and Grady “Coon-Ass” Travis (Jon Bernthal). Their fifth crew member ends up getting killed in battle and is immediately replaced by Norman Ellison (Logan Lerman), a typist who had just enlisted a few weeks ago. Due to his inexperience in tank combat and his unwillingness/hesitation to kill any enemy soldiers, Ellison is initially mocked by the rest of the crew of ‘Fury’, who have all been together since the North African campaign. This results in “Wardaddy” having to get him into the ‘warfighting’ spirit as they head off on a mission behind enemy lines where they soon find themselves outnumbered and outgunned against the German army.
Some have said that this film is like having someone come up to you and yell “war is hell” at you for two hours and while I can definitely see where these people are coming from, ‘Fury’ hasn’t been the only war movie to do this. Yes this film is brutal and yes it’s very grim but despite that it does do a really great job at portraying the horrors of war, specifically through the eyes of Ellison, who’s clearly in way over his head due to the fact that he’s a ‘rookie’ of war compared to the rest of the crew of ‘Fury’. Ultimately, he too has to go to some very dark places because that’s what happens in war; Compassion won’t get you anywhere far. This film features some incredible cinematography and the action sequences are phenomenal, some of the best that I’ve seen from a war movie. This helps make it extremely compelling although there is one scene in the film around the midway point that really slows things down, and not entirely in a good way. The scene in question is when the main characters go into a German town and meet a young woman and her cousin in their house. Now for the record, this isn’t exactly a ‘bad’ scene as it does allow for some nice bits of character development, particularly for Wardaddy and Ellison. The problem, however, is that it just goes on for way too long. In what is a two hour movie, this sequence arguably takes up about a quarter of the runtime. Again, it’s not a ‘bad’ scene, but the film would’ve really benefitted from having it trimmed a bit.
One of the key factors to this film’s success relied on whether or not the five leads have great camaraderie with one another given the fact that they’re all cooped up in a tank and are basically the only people on screen for most of the film. Now unfortunately, most of the main characters come off as being rather unlikable at times, primarily due to how they initially treat Ellison, resulting in him being the main one you root for over the course of the film. Jon Bernthal’s character in particular comes off as being particularly dickish, especially during the aforementioned sequence in the German village. Heck, even Wardaddy acts a little extreme at times when he’s working to break Ellison’s innocence, like when he forces him to shoot a prisoner against his will. But as the movie goes on, we do see that there are still ounces of humanity in all of them. Again, that’s war in a nutshell… it turns you into something you don’t want to become but in the end there’s nothing you can do about it. The five leads do have superb camaraderie, resulting in a very effective and genuine sense of brotherhood amongst them. Pitt and Lerman in particular work off each other extremely well in the figurative roles of ‘teacher’ and ‘student’ respectively though LaBeouf (Who dare I say might just be the standout amongst the five?), Pena, and Bernthal all do fantastic jobs as well.
‘Fury’ is a film that isn’t really for the faint of heart. It’s brutal and also very grim in regards to its overall tone and atmosphere. But at the same time, the movie does manage to be an incredibly captivating war drama with some excellent action sequences and phenomenal cinematography. But at its core, the film’s greatest strengths come from how it does a great job at not only portraying the horrors of war through the eyes of an inexperienced soldier but also the brotherhood between soldiers as shown through the five members of the ‘Fury’ crew. Their camaraderie is superb and all five leads do a phenomenal jobs, with Logan Lerman and Shia LaBeouf in particular giving some of the best performances of their careers. It can be argued that this film is more brutal than it ultimately needed to be but really, when has a war film ever not been brutal/grim? That’s the whole point as these films convey to us how dark things can get in the time of war. ‘Fury’ is indeed a hard-hitting movie but at the same time it will also have you on the edge of your seat from beginning to end.