In the latter days of World War II, much of the fighting involved the tactical brutality that was tank warfare. As any historian or buff of the second world war knows, the American tanks were completely outdone by the far superior Nazi tanks, and while this was terrible for the soldiers in the war, it makes for a great idea for a movie. That movie is finally here with David Ayer’s Fury. This is a movie that has its flaws in its predictability and a pretty messy middle section, but I’d still have to say that it is one of the best, if not the best, war film since Saving Private Ryan.
The year is 1945 and victory for the Allied forces seems like a good possibility, but that doesn’t mean that the German army isn’t using everything it has to defend Berlin, including women and children. Don “Wardaddy” Collier (Brad Pitt) is a tank commander with the best team he could possibly ask for. There’s the gunner, Boyd “Bible” Swan (Shia LaBeouf); the loader, Grady “Coon-Ass” Travis (Jon Bernthal); and the driver, Trini “Gordo” Garcia (Michael Peña). When one of the team dies, he is replaced by Norman (Logan Lerman), who has to work hard to prove his loyalty to the crew but also his bravery in battle. When the team receives the important mission to defend a vital cross road, they treat it as if it’s a mission that they’ve all gone through before, but this is the mission that will truly test their metal as a vast German platoon advances on their position.
After seeing the movie, it has become more obvious that Fury means a lot more than just the tank’s name. While I figured this going into the movie, I wasn’t sure exactly how Ayer was going to treat the war. It’s easy to make a war movie where you sympathize with the good guys and cheer them on, while it’s much easier to hate the bad guys and hope their soldiers will be defeated. This is even the case in Saving Private Ryan, what I consider to be the greatest war film ever made. Fury takes an interesting stance in this case. It isn’t easy to like the characters in the American tank, even Pitt’s character which you would think would be the knight in shining armor. Every character, other than Lerman’s, has been changed by the war at the start of the movie, making them seem like vengeful, bloodthirsty warriors rather than the heroic soldiers marching into battle, as World War II movies often depict them.
Probably the best part about this film is actually the sound design. When I found out the sound was done by Paul N.J. Ottosson, I realized why it was so good. Ottosson is responsible for the near deafening, if not astoundingly perfect sound work in The Hurt Locker and Zero Dark Thirty, having won the Academy Award for both of those films. If he wins again for Fury, I wouldn’t be surprised at all. Shells whistle and machine guns roar with such depth and power that it feels like you’re really in the middle of a tank battle. Sound can make or break a movie, and it really bolsters this one. The costume and set work are also really excellent, especially at the various American camps and the claustrophobic interior of the tank. It’s an effectively depressing looking movie.
Now, as I stated before, there are some major problems with Fury that made me pretty uncomfortable in my seat. For one thing, it’s a very predictable movie. For all of its unconventionality, the films still follows a core formula where you can more than guess the ending. That was something I could live with, but there is a section in the middle that lasts about 15 minutes that was almost unbearable. There’s so much intensity in the first part of the film that when it slows down, it feels like somebody slammed on the breaks without thinking to slow down a little bit first. While this is a short part of the movie, it’s so boring and drawn out that it feels a lot longer. Luckily, the insane third act more than makes up for this awkward middle section.
Fury is an intense war film that takes the glamour out of everything Hollywood ever tried to put into a war movie. While we cheer for the American soldiers, it’s hard to like them at the same time while there is signs of humanity in the opposing forces, something that hasn’t really been seen except in a film like The Pianist. This is a brutal, devastating, but really entertaining movie that is worth seeing more than once. The sound, sets, and score were all equally fantastic and it does my heart good to see a film that’s so easy to like.