Director: David Ayer
Starring: Brad Pitt, Shia LaBeouf, Logan Lerman, Michael Pena, Jon Bernthal, Jason Isaacs
Written by: David Ayer
Running Time: 134 mins
Release date: 22nd October 2014
It’s not often that you leave a cinema completely shaken to your core but David Ayer’s brutal World War II drama set in a tank had just that effect. With its visceral battle scenes and claustrophobic environment and a last 40 minutes that doesn’t even allow you to breathe, this is instantly going to be compared to Saving Private Ryan. I’m going to say it has more connecting it to Wolfgang Petersen’s Das Boot than the Spielberg classic. Whatever way you look at it, this is an astonishing piece of work.
April 1945 and on the final push in Europe, a Sherman tank, led by battle-scarred sergeant Wardaddy and his three fellow crew, have orders to go into the heart of Germany. Having lost one of their own, a fresh-faced new recruit, Norman, joins the team. Never been on the front line before and not even fired a gun, Wardaddy can see that unless Norman hardens up, it will put everyone into jeopardy and so has to show him the dark side of war but outnumbered and out-gunned, the crew of the tank they nicknamed “Fury” seem to be on borrowed time anyway and will a raw recruit make their chances of surviving slimmer.
From the moment David Ayer’s film starts, it sets out its stall immediately. An artistic shot of a lone officer on a white horse being ambushed by Wardaddy with a knife, you know that this isn’t going to be an easy ride. The full-on battle sequences leave very little to the imagination, throwing you right in the heart of the fight, with sound that shutters through every inch of your body and sights that often make you winch and often long for you to cover your eyes. Yet the film is more than just a violent overload.
This is more about character and the effect war has on those having to live it. The crew of “Fury” are not your regular, blue-eyed boys. Sure, they are heroic and they enter areas that they know they may not return but they are far from angelic. Boyd ‘Bible’ Swan is a religious man, spouting text from the good book every chance he gets while manning the gun in the crammed tin can they call home. Trini ‘Gordo’ Garcia, a Mexican driver, seems to be the most level-headed of the team, while Grady ‘Coon-Ass’ Travis is just a foul-mouthed animal with little respect for anyone or anything. At the heart of this tale is Wardaddy, a man who lives, breathes and sleep the war and his tank. Respected by his men, he looks like the kind of man who can take anything and yet, he too is affected by the horrors or war.
Ayer’s has created a wild bunch who, if they showed up in a John Wayne war film, would have been the enemy. This is the film top trump. Making this band of brothers unsympathetic makes them even more sympathetic when they are struck with tragedy. They look after each other and, at the beginning, are resentful of their new arrival, giving him an incredibly hard time.
Where the film really grabs you is in the final act, when stranded in the middle of nowhere, all alone without back-up, the group find German soldiers heading towards them. Be warned, you are in for the most tense, breath-taking assault on the sense and your emotions. You will feel like you have lived every moment with these men and you will feel like you’ve breathed for the first time once it is over. The ending is a little too “Hollywood” but you can forgive it.
The performances from the cast are exceptional. Shia LaBouef, Michael Pena and The Walking Dead’s Jon Bernthal flesh their characters out brilliantly, bringing them to life and wanting to both hate and love them at the same time. Logan Lerman, as Norman, is superb. As far removed from his most famous role, Percy Jackson, this is a beautifully realised performance of a man who has never seen such horrors and yet has to learn to accept them. A heart-grabbing scene, in which he has to perform his first “kill” is both incredibly distressing and terrifically handled.
Finally there’s Brad Pitt. His is the lynch-pin, the man who holds it all together and he manages to do it with style, coolness and keeping inside his deepest fears. It is proof once more that Pitt is an actor who can turn his hand at anything, a man with intense toughness but vulnerability too. He doesn’t just command the screen, he controls it.
Fury is a tough film. It doesn’t hold back on the visuals, the bloodiness of the war or the raw emotions that the men who fought it suffered. It doesn’t give us nice people, it gives us humans. It doesn’t force us to know that war is hell, it just shows us without ever uttering those words. It is a powerhouse piece of cinema and a film that lives in the memory long after it has ended. You will certainly need something calming afterwards.