As someone who loves war movies to the point that I watched Black Hawk Down so often it caused screen burn on my old TV (don’t fall asleep when you own an LCD TV, kids!) I figured I was the perfect person to review Fury. But it’s been a day and I’m still no closer to making up my mind.
Taking place during the closing months of the Allies’ march into Germany during WWII, the film follows one tank crew as they simply try to survive the war. Most of the tanks are rolling towards Berlin and only a scattered few regiments are left to help with mop-up fighting in the rest of the country. To compound the difficulty the Germans have much, much better tanks and are so desperate that they are sending men, women and children at the Allies in an attempt to slow them down.
Having been fighting with almost the exact same crew since the Africa campaign, Wardaddy (Brad Pitt) is doing his best to keep his crew safe amidst constant battle. His three battle-hardened men are gunner Priest (Shia LeBeouf), loader Coon-Ass (Jon Bernthal), and driver Gordo (Michael Pina). Yes, I’m only going to refer to them by their call signs. They almost made it through the war together but alas the assistant driver was killed in battle and now they’re saddled with Norman (Logan Lerman). Not only is Norman untrained, untried and untrusted as an assistant driver, he’s actually a typist with no combat or tank training.
With the full five-man tank complement reassembled, they are first tasked with helping to take a nearby town and later with guarding a crossroads to prevent a German contingent of soldiers from attacking an Allied camp filled with only medics and engineers. The only help comes from four other tanks and a few hundred infantrymen.
I really do want to like Fury but it is relentless. It is 135 minutes of gore, violence, anger, fear and every other negative emotion men feel during war time. It also includes overlong scenes of intense discomfort that only serve to demonstrate how soldiers can justify their actions in and out of battle.
The breaks in action offer none of the camaraderie visible in films like Saving Private Ryan and there is absolutely no visible humor. It’s simply two-plus hours of brutal warfare and even more brutal humanity.
The good is certainly the acting. Brad Pitt gives a lot of depth to his character and almost plays Wardaddy as an anti-hero. As much as I hate Shia LeBeouf as a person, Preacher had a lot of depth and was responsible for a lot of the moral justifications within the film. Jon Bernthal was relentless and almost inhuman in his depiction of a man who now lives to fight, kill and occasionally get laid. Logan Lerman is excellent as a young man way out of his depth and he’s pretty much the only sympathetic character in the entire film. Only Michael Pena brings any humor to the screen and it’s 100% dark.
As far as the plot goes, it’s relatively solid although I don’t feel that a few of the character arcs were truly worked out. One scene in particular acts as a ‘switch,’ causing one of Fury’s crew to pull a 180 in demeanor and it feels forced.
If you’re looking for gritty action, though, you’re in the right place. If Fury shares one thing with Saving Private Ryan, it’s the brutal realism of combat. If anything this movie seems to spend a bit too much time reveling in the violence rather than using it as a means to an end.
I don’t believe we will see Fury nominated for many Academy Awards this year, but it was nice to see a film take an honest look at war from the point of view of a tank crew. Even though I’m still on the fence I’m going to tentatively call this an good film though probably not a classic war movie. I plan on rewatching this again someday and see if this opinion stands.
Top image © Columbia Pictures.