by Coop Cooper
Set in 1945 as the Allied forces penetrate deep into Germany in an attempt to quickly end the war, the battle-weary tank crew of the vehicle dubbed ‘Fury’ emerge from a fierce battle as the sole survivors of their platoon. Having already suffered through intense action in North Africa and France, they return from this battle having lost their beloved assistant driver only to have green typist/clerk Norman (Logan Lerman) thrust upon them as an untrained, last-second replacement. The rest of the veteran crew treat Norman with visible disgust, but tank commander Don ‘Wardaddy’ Collier (Brad Pitt), goes to extreme lengths to toughen the kid up before Norman’s reluctance to pull the trigger gets them all killed. When the tank becomes trapped alone, behind enemy lines with an entire Nazi platoon bearing down on them, Norman must find his courage quickly as the crew buckles down for the fight of their lives.
The beats within the film are highly predictable as they follow all of the familiar war movie tropes and cliches. There’s always one jerk on the team making everyone miserable only to make up for it in the end. Scenes of brutality and severely mutilated bodies are hammered into the imagery, a war movie staple since “Saving Private Ryan” out-gored them all back in 1998. Of course there has to be a few ‘war is hell’ scenes if Norman is to grow as a soldier, but director/writer David Ayer threw in a particularly cruel and conveniently timed one in the middle of the film which stretched credibility. The unnecessary kill attempted to prove a point that had already been proven and would continue to be proven over the course of the film.
Even so, this war film is a production of the highest caliber with fine performances from the entire main cast. Logan Lerman has been up-and-coming for awhile and this is his first, real adult role, something he will need to grow into in the next couple of years. Shia LaBeouf pleasantly surprises as the pious gunner ‘Bible’ who is one battle away from a nervous breakdown. Micheal Pena provides heart and some comedic relief as tank driver ‘Gordo’. The weak link is the usually competent Justin Bernthal as the mean-spirited mechanic/loader Grady ‘Coon-Ass’ Travis. He can’t seem to tackle a cajun accent or act any other way than cartoonishly disgusting (until the very end of course). A shame since he was possibly the strongest character as the villainous Shane on “The Walking Dead” TV series where he proved that Southerners didn’t have to be dumb or toothless. Brad Pitt plays Brad Pitt here. He’s no Lt. Aldo Raine here but he does as well as can be expected with the part.
The action flies about as furious as you can hope for in a WWII movie. There are long breaks in between the action scenes but when they arrive, they don’t disappoint. I’ve always wondered how tank battles and tactics worked in warfare and here you get a fascinating and frightening glimpse at it. “Fury” also illustrates how out-gunned the tank crews were against the German armor, especially the dreaded ‘Tiger’ tank whose appearance makes for one of the most harrowing sequences in the film. I would also be curious to see how the tank’s interior shots were achieved. I can only guess it was done on a set with parts of the vehicle cut away to make way for the cameras and lighting. However they did it, the effect definitely gives the audience a sense of claustrophobia and vulnerability.
One potential encouraging note about “Fury” director David Ayer is that he has been hired to helm the D.C. Comics film “Suicide Squad”, based off of the comic book in which expendable supervillains are captured by the government and coerced/forced into conducting highly dangerous missions for the greater good of the country. Of all the D.C. movie properties (including “Superman” and “Batman”), “Suicide Squad” has the most potential to be the runaway hit for D.C. that “Guardians of the Galaxy” was for Marvel. With his pedigree as an action director, especially with “Fury”, I now feel confident he can pull it off.
“Fury” is possibly one of the most satisfying, down-to-earth action movies of the year. For fans of war movies, it’s a must-see in the theater and could win some technical awards come Oscars season.
Rating: 4 out of 5