Fury is the the type of film that makes me remember why I love films so much in the first place. Visually bleak but stunning and superbly acted, on the surface Fury looks like nothing more than a brutal and savage platoon film that could’ve been made in the 50s. And it is all of those things, to a degree. However, underneath Fury‘s hyperviolent shell is a surprisingly poignant underbelly, focusing on the effects war has on the men tossed into it. Fury is not so much a story about war; it is more a human story set against the backdrop of war.
Fury is set in 1945, at the end World War II in Germany. The allies are making their final way through Germany, and a tank named Fury, with a five man crew, are at the front of the threshold. Fury is led by Don “Wardaddy” Collier (Brad Pitt), and the four below him: Grady “Coon Ass” Travis (Jon Bernthal), Boyd “Bible” Swan (Shia LeBeouf), and Trini “Gordo” Garcia (Michael Peña). It is revealed that the tank’s assistant bow gunner has recently been killed, so sent in to replace him is Norman Ellison (Logan Lerman), a recently enlisted Army typist with no war experience whatsoever. The crew of Fury are harsh to the newcomer Norman at first, as they’re all veterans and have been fighting the Germans for years as a unit, starting in Africa.
The plot in Fury is not as fleshed out as some war movies, as most of the film simply revolves around the tank with the crew moving from city to city, defending themselves and attacking Nazi’s along the way. However, I don’t think it needs to be that fleshed out. It is scattered and a little messy, but it is the way something as messy as war should be. The genius in Fury lies in its ability to show us the horrors of war without undermining the seriousness of it. Some may argue the it glorifies violence with its brute force and monstrous glimpses into the reality of 1945 Germany: a man shooting himself in the head after he catches fire, a tank ripping a man in half, German teenagers hung from poles with signs around their necks, shots being fired creating cataclysmic chaos and limbs being torn off, bullets shot into backs and eyes. It is gory, unrelenting, rugged, unsentimental and intense. But I don’t believe for a second that it glorifies war. How can it glorify something so disturbing, so real, something that really happened? It is what I would imagine war actually being like, and the most realistic portrayal of war on film I’ve seen to date–it doesn’t sugar coat a thing, never for a moment surrendering its clear aim–to force you into, if even a slight bit, understanding what war really is–understanding the complexity of emotions the soldiers go through, the hardships they must weather, how awful and evil human beings can be to one another.
What makes Fury even more remarkable is how there is always an element of sentimentality and character depth within reach of even the most vicious of action scenes, while simultaneously there is also always an almost tangible element of tension and bleak undertones during the down time. A prime example being Brad Pitt as Wardaddy in a few choice scenes. He is the most rugged of men–tortured, courageous, and hardened. There is a scene where he forces Norman to shoot an unarmed German soldier in the back to teach him how to survive, and how to keep his counterparts alive as well. He beats Norman, yelling at him until he nearly chokes him to death and makes him do the deed. It is a hard scene to watch, but a few seconds later you see Wardaddy crouch on the ground, cigarette in a shaky hand, agony in his face as he lets down the facade for just a moment, barely long enough to gain a glimpse inside the noble heart of a man who’s been terrorized by war for far too long. And still, a few scenes after that we see him show generosity and kindness to a pair of German women cooped up in their house, giving them eggs, cups and cigarettes. Brad Pitt is remarkable as always; can he really do anything wrong?
The supporting cast in the film is excellent on most accounts. Jon Bernthal as Coon Ass in particular is just spectacular; early on in the film he is shown as the toughest of the crew, the most scarred, the one we expect to see the least depth from. And there is a scene where I hated him, where he, along with the other two crew members, burst in on Wardaddy and Norman having tea with the German women and make an angry, drunk and elaborate display. Yet surprisingly, later in the film you see him apologize to Norman for his actions, tearing down the walls for a minute and telling Norman that he is a “good man”, and that he recognizes this because he and his crew are not. His element of subtle charm beneath the grim was fantastic and, in my opinion, Oscar-worthy.
Logan Lerman as Norman served almost as the audience’s eyes; it was like we were in his shoes, as he was the one who was new to war, the one who had never shot a gun before or seen a dead body before. By the end of the film, however, Norman receives his nickname, “Machine.” He has something he cares for taken away from him at one point (something I won’t disclose here), and it seems after that he is a changed man, one who understands the want for revenge and understands how cold he has to be in order to survive. It’s like as he grew as a character, we grew as an audience, facing the brutality of war and finally accepting it.
Michael Peña is always great in anything he does, serving as the sarcastic Gordo, the one who lightens the mood because, especially in war, laughter is the best medicine.
Shia LeBeouf is the last one I’ll mention, because while I feel it is his best role as an adult to date, he is outshone once again by his fellow actors and it makes his mediocre acting ability seem even more so. And his character, Bible, he is a man fond of God’s word, but his character never really moves beyond that. While the other characters are constantly growing and shifting and changing with the story, he just seems stagnant and monotone when he speaks, his only emotion being him on the constant verge of tears.
This the kind of movie you want to see in theaters. It is dramatic and beautifully filmed, the camera shots at the opening and ending scenes were especially terrific and fitting. It will emotionally attach you, latch onto your heart and give you vivid visuals you won’t be forgetting anytime soon.
Let me just end this by saying, there is a sequence in the middle of the film where Wardaddy takes Norman to a room filled with German aristocrats who have shot themselves in the head. “Why are you showing me this?” Norman asks. The answer Wardaddy gives is the best possible representation of Fury as a whole, and encompasses its mission in two sentences. “Ideals are peaceful. History is violent.”