By Chris Sanchez
Let’s face it: war is hell.
Like many other depictions of war on film, David Ayer’s “Fury” shows the horrors of WWII. It’s what may be expected from a big studio war picture, but this time it’s from the perspective of tank combat. Conventions aside, Ayer’s film is unflinching, gritty and entertaining. Yet, in the end, this film falls short.
In April 1945, during the last days of WWII, a tank crew is on a mission in Germany. The crew is led by fierce commander Don “Wardaddy” Collier (Brad Pitt), whose goal is to protect his crewmen, including Swan (Shia LaBeouf), Travis (Walking Dead alum Jon Bernthal) and Garcia (Michael Pena). After their assistant driver is killed in combat, an intimidated new recruit Norman (Logan Lerman) takes his place despite the fact that he’s a typist with no combat experience. All he has left is to clean what remained of the assistant driver after his demise (hint: it’s pretty gnarly).
Arriving in Berlin, the crew slugs through the town waiting for German soldiers to strike. What “Fury” does well here is expresses that these courageous soldiers’ fates are held in the enemy’s hands, and makes the audience feel the dread and anxiety of the events that may or may not occur. When the German tanks do arrive, the film doesn’t steer away from the brutality of the battle sequences, so much at times you feel that Ayer is grinding your face into it.
These battle scenes are often intense, but unfortunately become repetitive and reminiscent of more effective war films. “Fury’s” best scenes actually occur outside the carnage, in quieter moments when the crew is bonding in the tank. The director tries to make an intimate setting, and it works in that respect. Another scene involving Wardaddy and Norman with two German women is similarly effective.
The main issue with “Fury” is that it doesn’t offer anything groundbreaking or illuminating to the genre. It tries to be the next “Saving Private Ryan” in that it attempts to be a visceral, breathtaking, but emotionally -charged war film, but it fails at this.
“Fury” does shine in character development, however. You have to commend the actors, as LaBeouf and Bernthal give their all while Pena does his best given that his character is the thinnest drawn-out character of the bunch. Pitt is quite good, even though it might be hard to differentiate him from his character in Quentin Tarantino’s more thrilling and audaciously crafted WWII film “Inglorious Bastards.” His character here is more of a father figure, and no less of a commanding one, which has always been Pitt’s strength as an actor. It is Lerman who quietly upstages his co-stars, though, as the new kid Norman. His character is the most fleshed-out, and gives the film its emotional core. The rooting factor for him is inevitable.
“Fury” is solid enough, but it could have gone to greater heights, and could have cut deeper into the soldier’s psyche. Clearly, Ayer wanted to show the soldiers’ emotional conflicts. If only it were more compelling.