Review by Derrick Carter
Running Time: 2 hours 14 minutes
MPAA Rating: R for Strong Sequences of War Violence, some Grisly Images, and Language throughout
Directed by: David Ayer
Written by: David Ayer
Starring: Brad Pitt, Shia LaBeouf, Logan Lerman, Michael Pena, Jon Bernthal, Jason Isaacs, Scott Eastwood & Xavier Samuel
FURY, a historical fictional WWII film, looked like it was something along the lines of U-571 or BEHIND ENEMY LINES from the marketing. The trailers and TV spots gave a sense of this was a glossed over slice of what WWII was like and that Americans always save the day no matter what insurmountable odds they face. I wasn’t the only one with these impressions as I also found that other friends felt the same way. Turns out, we couldn’t have been more wrong. FURY is a gritty, realistic, and dark look at the horrors of war. It almost feels like the second half of FULL METAL JACKET relocated a few decades earlier to WWII. This is a bleak, depressing, but wholly rewarding film!
In the final year of WWII, the tank crew “Fury” make their way across enemy lines in Germany. In desperation that he’s losing the war, Hitler has ordered that all men, women, and children to take up arms and fight. The US military forces are going town to town, killing the opposition and capturing those who surrender peacefully. Along the way, plenty of people on both sides are lost. Private Norman Ellison is a pencil pushing clerk who has been ordered to serve as Don “Wardaddy” Collier’s (head of Fury) new bow gunner. Inexperienced and unprepared for the carnage that lies ahead, Norman gets a nasty wake-up call and must find a place within his new tank family as they do whatever it takes to complete their mission to the best of their abilities.
Director/writer David Ayer (SABOTAGE) nails one important quality right out of the gate. These characters are excellent and performances from stellar cast members bring to them life. Some of these guys may seem a little iffy at first (especially Jon Bernthal) but they do grow on you. The sad truth is that these characters are hardened by seeing “what a man can do to another man” (as a remarkable Shia LaBeouf states early on). I warmed up to each person in varying degrees. It felt like these people had been together for so long that there was an honest family dynamic between them. Logan Lerman is outstanding as Norman, maintaining a kind of innocence in spite of how dire circumstances get. The stand-out performance belongs to Brad Pitt as “Wardaddy.” He may seem like a tough instructor and collected from the outside, but we’re given brief glimpses of him almost emotionally breaking down away from his crew. He is deeply affected by the violent repetition around him, but will deliberately walk away from his fellow officers to hide it in order to maintain his tough appearance.
FURY also has a thick, gloomy atmosphere that never once eases the viewer into feeling safe (the state of mind that the characters are always in). Though movies can never fully relate to reality, FURY seems to go out of its way to capture just how horrific war can be (at least on the screen). There’s a lot of gore in this film. I knew it was going to be bloody and brutal (R rating and all), but we actually see flattened corpses, limbs and heads exploding, pieces of gore that are sizeable enough to tell what they used to be (a piece of someone’s face in the opening 10 minutes). This is disturbing stuff, as it should be. Like FULL METAL JACKET, there’s no use in prettying up what is a horrific time to begin with. We never see the sun shine in FURY, clouds always loom over every town, field and road. This gives off a further feeling of bleakness.
Another fantastic quality in FURY is how well-paced the movie is. At over two hours, the running time whizzes by. It’s not as if the film is all combat sequences and battlefields either, because there’s a solid stretch where we see the aftermath of the U.S. forces taking a town. It leads to some revealing emotional scenes that tell a lot about both Norman and Wardaddy, but shows how hardened some of the other men are. Nothing particularly graphic or violent happens in this long sequence, but its gripping nonetheless. The finale is also fantastic and not portrayed in a way that feels like it’s a blockbuster action sequence or a piece of “America can do anything” propaganda. It puts us inside the tank with the men and kept me gripping my armrests.
FURY is a grim, brutal war movie that delivers in every area. The characters might not initially seem like the kind of people you want to watch for two hours, but I warmed up to all of them over the course of the movie. The violence is shocking, but never feels exploitative. We see the consequences of killing a man and the tension is as thick as the clouds covering the enemy territory. FURY may not be a happy experience, but it’s a good and fulfilling one. I can safely recommend FURY as one of the best war movies to come along in years.