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Review: Fury

October 20, 2014

By John Corrado

★★★ (out of 4)

Fury Poster

“Ideals are peaceful, history is violent,” the tough Don “Wardaddy” Collier (Brad Pitt) tells shy new recruit Norman Ellison (Logan Lerman) in Fury, a very well made film that eschews the more idealistic views of some World War II movies with impressive historical accuracy and unwavering realism.

This is an authentically dirty and graphically violent film that celebrates the heroics of the soldiers by showing the gritty reality of their experiences and less than ideal living conditions.

After affectively putting us in the front of a squad car in the 2012 thriller End of Watch, writer-director David Ayer plunges us right into the middle of the Second World War, and the suspense of Fury similarly never lets up.

The film takes place in the final weeks of WWII, and Wardaddy is the determined commander of a Sherman tank travelling behind enemy lines.  With a crew rounded out by scripture-quoting Boyd “Bible” Swan (Shia LaBeouf), proud Mexican Trini “Gordo” Garcia (Michael Peña), and the abrasive Grady “Coon-Ass” Travis (Jon Bernthal), they are fighting their way through the heart of Nazi Germany, struggling to survive with only the metal shell protecting them from enemy fire.

There isn’t much backstory offered for the soldiers, and at times some of the supporting players can feel like stock characters.  The film also runs a little long at 134 minutes.  But Fury is elevated by outstanding production values, which are one of the main draws of the film.  The cinematography is striking, with some memorably framed scenes that put us right on the sidelines of battle, as machine gun fire and grenades seem to explode above our heads.  The visceral action is matched by stirring sound design, with constant noises coming from all around us, utilizing the surrounding speakers to plunge us right into the disorientation of combat.

Steven Price mixes haunting vocals in the background of his excellent orchestral score, which gives the music an appropriately unnerving effect.  The battle sequences are impressively pulled off, showing the brutality of war in shocking and often disturbingly realistic ways.  The film doesn’t shy away from showing the effects of bullets ripping through bodies, leaving human remains strewn about, and this unwavering attention to detail is admittedly admirable.  Because of this brutally realistic approach, Fury is a hard and sometimes gruelling film to watch, but the excellent performances keep us gripped.

Recalling his unforgettable work in Quentin Tarantino’s brilliant Inglourious Basterds, Brad Pitt shines in another solid and fiercely dedicated performance here.  Logan Lerman delivers standout supporting work, affectively showing the sheer fear of his character, a typist turned fighter who observes the situation unfolding around him with a quiet anxiety behind his eyes.  Rebounding from his embarrassing real life persona, Shia LaBeouf also gets some excellent scenes, bringing surprising depth to his character through a dedicated performance that had him refrain from showering during the shoot.

Through these performances, we really feel the claustrophobia of the tank that forces them to become a family, and the actors bring an authentic quality to their interactions.  A powerfully written scene at the home of German cousins Irma (Anamaria Marinca) and Emma (Alicia von Rittberg), provides an excellent showcase for the believable and sometimes explosive chemistry that they share.  This memorable extended sequence offers a reprieve from the fighting but not the tension that permeates the entire film, allowing words to become the most powerful force in a story largely dominated by gunfire.

The finale is an incredibly tense sequence that sees them struggling to hold off hundreds of enemy soldiers, culminating with heartbreaking images of carnage that close the film on a sobering note, even though we know that the Nazis are about to be defeated and the war is within weeks of being over.  With powerful themes of loyalty, brotherhood and self sacrifice, matched by scriptural quotes and biblical undertones, Fury has the feel of a classic American war movie, as channelled through a gritty and impressively realistic lens.

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