Action Drama

DVD Review: Fury

January 31, 2015Ben Mk


Men o' war...

Ocean's Eleven co-stars George Clooney and Brad Pitt both had World War II movies released in 2014. Clooney's pic, The Monuments Men, which he also directed, was a sometimes lighthearted look at the unsung heroes of the conflict: the men tasked with preserving Europe's priceless cultural history. In contrast, there's nothing lighthearted whatsoever about Pitt's Fury, which takes an uncompromising look at the brutality of war through the eyes of five men crammed into the iron and steel innards of an M4A3E8 Sherman tank.

   

The Film The time and place is 1945 Germany, and Brad Pitt plays Sergeant Don "Wardaddy" Collier, a battle-hardened American soldier and commander of the tank known as "Fury". 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 done their part to rid the world of the SS scourge, mowing down enemy troops from Africa to Europe with good ol' American firepower. But as the war has worn on, they've found themselves increasingly outmatched by the 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 Allied forces' conflict with the Nazis, and writer/director David Ayer's 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 mobile behemoth pancaking the remains of any unfortunate souls that happen to lie underfoot. Yes, the visuals are disturbing, but truthfully, nothing underscores the film's core tenet — 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 plump grapes.

The story is well-served by the memorable performances of its talented ensemble cast, as LaBeouf, Peña and Bernthal imbue their characters with an aching desperation and frustration that allows them to resonate beyond the usual stereotypes. But if there are two characters that embody the principal dichotomy of the film, 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 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. And though Fury may stun with its graphic and gruesome portrait of World War II combat, it's made all the more effective by the gravity of these dramatic performances. For they give audiences something to remember the film by — once all the dust has settled and the blood has dried.

Audio/Visual Fidelity Just as the film is an unrelenting depiction of WWII, Fury's DVD presentation excels, delivering an audio and visual experience that puts viewers directly into the thick of battle. No doubt it's outclassed by its hi-def counterpart, but this standard definition transfer is no slouch: it features a very fine layer of grain, solid contrast and black levels, and displays plenty of foreground and background detail (as can be seen in the grease-stained faces of the cast or in the numerous pieces of debris that litter the landscape). The film's color palette is also accurately represented, from drab greys and grimy browns to the brighter hues of orange flames and red and green tracer fire. Likewise, the disc's Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack is quite immersive, surrounding viewers with machine gun and tank cannon fire, ricocheting bullets and explosions.

Special Features Bonus features on Sony's DVD release are slim compared to the Blu-ray edition of the film. An UltraViolet digital copy of the film is included, as well as a single featurette, the 11-minute Blood Brothers. In preparation for the movie, director David Ayer and the cast spoke with WWII veterans (especially those belonging to the 2nd Armored Division) and worked with military advisors; and this piece is all about how that contributed to the film's authenticity, with the first half devoted to interviews with the cast and with veterans (along with some archival footage of the war), while the second half focuses on the actors' boot camp training.


The Bottom Line Short of being in 3D, Fury is the closest we're likely going to get to the intensity of tank warfare. 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. As for Sony's DVD release, the extras fail to provide much insight into the making of the film, but its potent and immersive audio and video presentation should win viewers over nonetheless.  Ben Mk

Disc Breakdown
The Film  —  
Audio/Visual Fidelity  —  
Special Features  —  





* Reviewer's note: Portions of this DVD review were adapted from my original review of the theatrical release, published on October 17th, 2014.



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