Action Drama

Hell Hath No Film Review: Fury

October 17, 2014Ben Mk


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Death or glory...

The brutality of war — and the acts of heroism it inspires — is something that has been explored in cinema time and time again, going back to the early days of Hollywood. Some directors, like Steven Spielberg, have addressed the subject with sincerity and heartfelt emotion, whereas others, like Quentin Tarantino, have elected to put their own darkly humorous spin on history. Then there are films like writer/director David Ayer’s Fury, which take a raw and unflinching look at the inhumanity of wartime conflict, not just out on the battlefield, but inside the minds of those fighting on the front lines.

   

The time and place is 1945 Germany, and Brad Pitt plays Sergeant Don "Wardaddy" Collier, a battle-hardened American soldier and commander of the M4 Sherman tank known as "Fury", who's ruthlessly proficient at doing his part to rid the world of the SS scourge.

For the past three years, Wardaddy and his loyal crew — gunner Boyd Swan (Shia LaBeouf), driver Trini Garcia (Michael Peña) and loader Grady Travis (Jon Bernthal) — have fought their way across Africa and Europe, mowing down enemy troops with good ol' American firepower. But as the war has worn on, they've found themselves outmatched by the increasingly advanced German tank battalions, to the point where they're now the last remaining unit in their platoon.

Enter Norman Ellison (Logan Lerman), a military desk clerk with absolutely zero battlefield experience and a stomach for violence to match, who's been assigned to replace the Fury's fallen assistant driver. Norman is the antithesis to Wardaddy and his men — a fresh-faced rookie only eight weeks into his army stint, who would rather eat a bullet than take another human life — but Wardaddy and his men are hellbent on making a soldier out of him yet, if not for Norman's sake then because the rest of their lives depend on it.

It's the waning days of the Second World War, and the film sees the five men pushing deeper and deeper into enemy territory, battling pockets of fanatical German resistance, all culminating in an intense standoff set against seemingly insurmountable odds.

Along the way, they're met with the gruesome sight of mass graves and desecrated corpses; the treads of their 33-ton steel and iron behemoth pancaking the remains of any unfortunate souls that happen to lie underfoot. The visuals are disturbing, and some viewers may find the level of violence on display to be overkill. But, in truth, nothing underscores the film's core tenet — that war is hell (or as Wardaddy puts it, that "ideals are peaceful, [but] history is violent") — better than the grisly sight of a tank steamrolling over enemy trenches, crushing the heads of Nazi troops like so many plump grapes.

The story is well-served by the memorable performances of its talented ensemble cast, as LaBeouf, Peña and Bernthal do well to make their characters resonate beyond the stereotypes Ayer writes them as (just look at the aching desperation and frustration in their eyes). If there are two characters that embody the principal dichotomy of the film, however, it's Wardaddy and Norman. Pitt completely owns his role as the leader of this wild bunch, vanishing beneath his character's jaded, battle-scarred (and oftentimes mud-caked) visage; while Lerman evokes crucial audience sympathy as his counterpoint, someone who enters the fray not knowing the totality of war, but who quickly learns of it firsthand.

Fury stuns with its graphic and gruesome portrait of World War II combat, but it's made all the more effective by the gravity of these five dramatic performances. Together, they give audiences something to remember the film by — once all the dust has settled and the blood has dried, that is.

The Bottom Line Gritty, violent and unrelenting in its depiction of the horrors of war, Fury is unlike any other war film in recent memory. And it certainly differs in tone from Pitt's previous WWII outing, Inglourious Basterds. The movie isn't just a story of war, it's about the experience of it. And nothing conveys that better than being thrown into the bowels of tank with the men on the front lines, immersed up to your neck in all the blood and carnage. That's what this film offers moviegoers. Short of being in 3D, it's the closest we're likely to get to the intensity of tank warfare.  Ben Mk








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