“The devil watches over his own.”
What makes Fury so effective and so different from others in the war genre is its tragic sense of pointlessness. Set at the end of World War II, when the Allies had all but won the war, we witness men with an unending urgency to fight. The war is over, yet both sides continue to kill each other and pile on the casualties. While the title comes from the tank housing the crew from the above poster, I think it encapsulates the emotions coursing through the men’s veins. And the film’s tagline appropriately is, “War never ends quietly.” There’s the calm before the storm, the squall, and then the following quiet once mother nature has run her course. This is the story of the brief frenzy, the horrifically violent cessation before the war was both won and lost. Pride, and fury, can keep a beat man upright longer than deserved before finally conceding defeat.
One of the more impressive aspects of the film is its ability to familiarize us with the characters so quickly. They’re not just given a brief moment with their name thrown out either. It takes awhile, but the approach makes them all the more memorable. Boyd “Bible” (Shia LaBeouf) is the quiet and preachy gunner. His loader is Grady “Coon-Ass” (Jon Bernthal). The man is a bit of an animal, a Georgia boy minus the manners. Their driver is Trini “Gordo” (Michael Pena), friendly with the bottle and steady with a gun. Don “Wardaddy” (Brad Pitt) leads the veteran crew that’s been together for three years. However, the five man tank is a soldier short after losing their assistant driver. Needless to say, they’re not so welcoming to the newcomer.
Norman (Logan Lerman) is a trained clerk typist who’s been in the Army for eight weeks. To the crew’s disapproval, he arrives fresh-faced and unsullied, quite different than the rest of the bloodied, scarred, and grimy group. His first task? Go wash up the seat where their old comrade was blasted into pieces. Fury is chock-full of metaphors like this. Norman’s hands are stained red while mopping up the dead man’s blood, showing us that whether you like it or not, it’s impossible to not be caught red-handed in this war. And just like that, the tank is back on duty to capture another German town. The inexperienced Norman is petrified, as are we. It’s impossible to not feel a bit of terror as the tanks begin to slug along once more.
Fury is not for the faint of heart. The movie is never afraid to emphasize the graphic nature of life while at war. Heads explode, corpses laying in the mud are run over. These men, with the exception of Norman, describe themselves as bad people. They’re tormented. The desensitization of killing another person might do that to you. Yet somehow they never lose their sense of humanity. Yes, they hate the Germans, especially the SS infantry, but they love each other. It’s a real brotherhood. That’s pretty common for war movies and this sticks close to the genre’s main conventions. One sequence is a standout, fueled with tension and deep emotion. After taking a small town, Don takes Norman into an apartment. There are two women, one Don’s age and a young beauty named Emma (Alicia von Rittberg) who Don encourages Norman sleeps with. He reasons that, “they’re young.” Their moment in the apartment dining together is something straight out of a Taratino film, injected with possible hostility and stirring passion. I’ll leave the description at that, but just know it’s beautifully done and really raises this film a notch above everything else like it.
Even with the two previously mentioned women, this isn’t a movie that would ever pass the Bechdel Test. The main supplies for the war zone were men and director David Ayer compiled an outstanding and well rounded cast. Pena is always reliable, LaBeouf is surprisingly great in his dramatic moments, and Lerman excels as the young kid forced into that generation’s idea of manhood. Bernthal, to me, is the standout of the bunch. His snarled lip and grizzly voice disguise the close kinship he shares with his brothers in arms. As for Pitt, people might say he’s just copying his character from Inglorious Basterds, but that’s not the case. This is a defining role for the acting vet as a lost soul who only finds home in the confines of his steel killing machine. There is no escape for him, no way out besides going farther in.
Ayer does some exceptional work in this film. It’s outstanding direction and the camerawork inside the claustrophobic tank is fantastic. Even with the sharp visuals, the story’s greatest feat is its ability to show us the extensive, almost rooted guilt that these men experience. Kill a man and you’ll feel it. Survive an attack while a companion doesn’t and the wave of emotion will hit you even harder. Fury is an excellent film with a script that’s been cut down by stray fire. You won’t always feel rewarded in the rushed intimate beats, but the action will keep you busy enough to forget the pain and fight through. My theater was filled with an older crowd, unintentionally loud and chatty over the course of the film. As I exited, I held the door for a wheelchair bound elderly fellow, and he shot me a quick smile for my courteous deed. The man pushing him, who I presume was a relative if not a son, still older in age, shook my hand and said, “Thanks, son. Boy, that was intense wasn’t it?” Few movies can elicit that kind of gratitude.
“Best job I ever had.”
Rating: 4 out of 5