Starring: Brad Pitt, Logan Lerman, Jon Bernthal, Michael Pena and Shia LaBeouf
Directed by David Ayer Rohan Gotobed
I’ll be honest. Before I saw Fury earlier this week, I was planning not to like it. Going into this film, which was directed by End of Watch’s David Ayer, I had a unique perspective, for I had auditioned for a very small role in this film back in 2013. Though the role was absolutely tiny (in the final cut the character doesn’t even have a line), the extract of the script which I did see betrayed a multitude of spoilers, but I’m pleased to say that this didn’t tarnish my viewing experience.
Fury sets its action during the final weeks of the Second World War, as the Allied forces march through Germany on the way to Berlin. We see this apocalyptic world through the eyes of a tank crew – a side of the war which has been rarely seen explicitly in film. Ayer and his cinematographer Roman Vasyanov opt for a canvas of grimness. The colours of grey, brown and green feature prominently throughout, and it is clear that this film owes inspiration to ‘Saving Private Ryan’ and ‘Apocalypse Now’. The scenes set inside the tank are claustrophobic, while a sense of paranoia tarnishes the sprawling exterior sets when a sniper could be hiding behind every door.
Never before has the title of a film quite described the themes and nature of film as Fury does. The crew of the titular tank are tired of war. From the first few scenes, you sense a fatigue within Brad Pitt’s sergeant as he reacts to the death of one of his men. The Germans have been reduced to sending child soldiers into the fray, but the falling nation still refuses to surrender. The tagline, ‘war never ends quietly’, seems to define the film. Ayer has hundreds of redshirts to sacrifice, and the tragedy of Fury is heightened by the realisation that every dead soldier was a couple of weeks away from de-commission. This is a world which feels lived in. You watch this film believing that every character has been fighting for nearly three years; whether it be Jason Isaacs’ captain or our ‘heroes’. This is a very dirty film, without the sense of brotherhood one might gain from ‘Band of Brothers’. Prisoners of War are murdered, bodies of soldiers are squashed beneath tanks, while a young soldier commits suicide after being set alight by a petrol fire.
Nonetheless, this film revolves around the five men who crew ‘Fury’. Brad Pitt is excellent as the sergeant suffering a love-hate relationship with his inferiors and equals. Shia LaBeouf and Michael Pena disappear into their roles with determination while Jon Bernthal stole scenes as the burly ‘Coon-Ass’ who evokes fear, annoyance and sympathy in equal measure. Playing the innocent greenhorn who is gradually corrupted by the war around him is Logan Lerman, who delivers a better performance here than viewers of the Percy Jackson films might have expected. Though Ayer is more than capable of pulling the story back to his theme, we suffer multiple forays into the outside world; whether it be a breakfast between the crew and a local family or the mass migration of Germans escaping from the war, we see a system that is falling apart through death and destruction. The film also reminds us how many of the most notorious Nazis – whether it be Hitler or SS officers in a small German town – escaped justice through suicidal means.
This is a film that will take you to hell and leave you to drown, but that doesn’t mean it is perfect. Though the tank battles are compelling, they are an underused device, while the film peaks long before it ends. Despite attempts to muddy the waters of morality, Ayer still decides for an ‘SS Bad, US Good’ finale which is nonetheless a memorable battle sequence. Overall, I would highly recommend this film if you find the war period interesting, and also if you enjoy a myriad of stunning characterisation and world-building. If Ayer manages to repeat his work on this film for his next, then Suicide Squad could be the most grueling Superhero film yet.
Verdict: Bitter, grueling and filled to the rafters with death; David Ayer has created a horrific war film. Not awards worthy, but more than worthy of the sensitive topic.