Fury (2014)

★★★★

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Fury PosterDirector: David Ayer

Release Date: October 17th, 2014 (US); October 22nd, 2014 (UK)

Genre: Action; Drama; War

Starring: Brad Pitt, Logan Lerman, Shia LaBeouf, Jon Bernthal, Michael Peña

War is a nasty business. Of course, contemplating the nastiness of war isn’t a new undertaking, nor is it something that Fury director David Ayer feels compelled to shirk away from. His film is really quite horrendous. We see limbless bodies and bodiless limbs more often than we see rays of sunlight breaking through the clouds of 1945 Nazi Germany. Ayer’s intimate tale isn’t a fresh concept to the silver screen and it has absolutely been done better before, but there is a lot to admire here.

As World War II nears its conclusion, a Sherman tank troupe commanded by US Army sergeant Don Collier (Brad Pitt) is hurtled into the bloody doldrums of battle in Germany. Fighting through urban wastelands and disfigured countrysides, the ‘Fury’ group of five must survive via a combination of camaraderie and brute force, all the while depositing innocence at each rotation of their vehicle’s caterpillar track.

Ayer localises a grand story and his film is all the better for it. Often, the key to success in the war genre is engaging an audience in the plight of a few whilst also acknowledging the struggle of many. Fury manages this, no doubt aided by a stringently focused narrative that follows a particular group of soldiers. It’s their story and we’re always in their presence, allowing time (well over two hours of it) for us to empathise with the characters. And while the camera never ventures more than a few feet from at least one of the five, Ayer’s induction of a heavy and wearisome tone relentlessly captures the universal toil of war.

These characters don’t write the guidelines on positive morality either. In fact, their contribution to the Allied war effort has flurried any goodness purveyed by Collier and his crew. They each have a nickname — fittingly Collier’s is Wardaddy. That is not to say the man heralds a thirst for battle, rather it highlights Wardaddy’s efficiency in dark turmoil. (“Do as you’re told, don’t get close to anyone”). Brad Pitt plays him without immediate discernibility, casting doubt not over the sergeant’s motives, but over his methods. Ayer’s quintessential heroes are nothing of the sort. There are no good guys, only perceived bad guys.

The remainder of the group bear roles that are more clearly defined: Technician Boyd “Bible” Swan is the devoted religious type; Corporal Trini “Gordo” Garcia steers the tank with eccentricity; PFC Grady “Coon-Ass” Travis lacks moderation; and Private Norman Ellison carries the newbie status, a kid lost amongst a conflict in which he shouldn’t be fighting. Logan Lerman exudes ordinariness as Norman, reminding us of war’s infecting bullet wounds on humanity. Walking Dead alumni Jon Bernthal is also terrific as the gruff Coon-Ass but it’s Shia LaBeouf who wows more than any other. Scrubbing the stigma of celebrity from his face and replacing it with rotten dirt, LaBeouf displays a great deal of restraint, his eyes never far from filling with tears fuelled by a scarred mind. It turns out he can act, and act well.

LaBeouf’s character is the agent through which Ayer introduces a religious thread, one that doesn’t wholly endear itself to the narrative but does contribute towards an emotive punch. These faith-based overtones aren’t distracting as they only rear occasionally, and despite manifesting as a tad contrived, they do represent an attempt to manoeuvre proceedings away from any potential muscle bound machoness of battle. Indeed, the film manages to extract a large helping of connectivity from the audience through solemnity, a theme that runs along the piece like one of Nazi Germany’s seemingly endless mud trails. This helpless sobriety is first summed up in statement relayed by Jason Isaacs’ army Captain (“Why don’t they just quit?”), before revealing itself plainly in an extended Inglorious Basterds-esque dining room scene rightly devoid of any Tarantino quirk.

After 90 minutes of gruesome despair, the outing suddenly shifts its gaze in the direction of a more action-packed conclusion. The final act essentially wears the hallmark of a western standoff, trading cowboy hats for leather helmets. Granted in its final half hour Fury still maintains a gritty realism but this divergence in tone might not appease all. Tank jousts do occur before the lengthy concluding sequence, but frequently end in a matter of minutes. These battles are arduous in their execution, just as they should be, and do not glorify the mechanical face of war at all, whereas it could be argued that the long, underdog-ish rallying cry denoted in the final act does invite a semblance of glorification.

Technically, the film is a powerhouse. Cinematographer Roman Vasyanov turns the English countryside (where shooting primarily took place) into a bleak, putrefying Nazi Germany at the end of its tether. Two scenes stand out especially: a beautiful opening shot that patiently stalks a lone horseman as he tramples over smoky ruins and comes face to face with the fragility of tanks, and a dread filled moment nearer the end that involves a collection of simultaneously marching and chanting enemy troops. This uncompromising style meshes wonderfully with Steven Price’s score and pinpoint sound editing, and comes as close as any film to achieving the fist-clenching ambience of Saving Private Ryan.

It is certainly not as good as Spielberg’s aforementioned masterpiece, but not many outings born from this particular genre are. Fury is a visceral and effective retelling of war at its most desperate and least forgiving. If nothing else, it’s an example of high standard utility filmmaking.

Fury - Cast

Images credit: IMP Awards, Collider

Images copyright (©): Columbia Pictures

Author: Adam (Consumed by Film)

I'll be at the cinema if you need me.

19 thoughts on “Fury (2014)”

    1. Cheers Mark. It doesn’t pack as deep a punch as the likes of Saving Private Ryan, but Ayer should be commended for creating a war film that strategically borrows from past outings without over-indulging.

  1. Beautifully written review Adam. On seeing the trailer for this one I have to admit I was unsure, but it really does deliver on the horrors of war. I especially agree with you on the score and sound, excellently done.

    1. Cheers Alex. I think the genre is a gritty genre in general (at least, it should be) but there needs to be a balance between tone and content. This is really gruesome but not exploitative, because it’s a bleak story. The violence adds to the tone.

  2. Great review, Adam! Yours is one of the more positive ones I’ve read as compared to more of the mediocre ratings other reviewers have given it. I’m certainly interested in seeing this at some point, but I’m not sure if it’s worth viewing in theaters or not.

    1. Thanks Kristin! I didn’t think I’d like it as much as I ended up doing, probably because the promotional material gave off a overtly moody, award-baiting vibe. But it works, and the heavy tone is right. I’d give it a go in theatres to experience the battering audio if nothing else!

    1. Thanks Mark. A corrupt file? That’s certainly a new one! I feel quite lucky, having experienced a foolproof cinema life so far. No doubt now that I’ve said that next week’s trip will be ruined by a dodgy aspect ratio, haha.

  3. Nice work man! Very excited for this one. Impressions from the trailer were that it had a little bit more to it than the average ‘Call of Duty’ war production, and your review confirms this. The morality aspect seems really interesting. Can’t wait to see it!

  4. Brilliant work sir. I have to admit I never thought of the conclusion as something more than the logical set piece I saw it for, but you’re 100% right. Because it is shot so extensively and entails a daytime and nighttime sequence of effort on the part of these 5 brave men, the attention seemingly shifts to this valiant effort and it is spent here more than in any other place in the film. I’m glad to see it didn’t shake your ultimate view of the movie, though, for a 4/5 is surely a damn fine rating.

    1. Appreciate that Tom. I think the final act gets by because it does maintain that exacerbating sense of non-stop pillaging, but it’s not quite on point. I really admire the film regardless!

      Sorry for ignoring your blog (and everyone else’s) over the past week or so mate, completely bogged down by uni work that I’ll be doing until mid-December. Might be around a bit infrequently!

  5. Love, love, loved this film! It was dark, gritty, disgusting and so well acted. I was riveted from the off and was enthralled every second of the way. I am glad to see that you enjoyed it so much.

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