Disc Reviews

Fury Review

furyDavid Ayer’s Fury was generally well-received at its cinematic release and, far from being a fan of the WWII movie genre, this time I agree with the general tenor. It is a remarkable piece of cinema, combining a unique perspective with a gripping story that is impressively told. The sense of authenticity is striking, the acting superb. In a genre that already feels so overloaded that the idea of yet another addition to it may elicit groans from all but ardent followers, Fury manages to carve out a niche for itself by narrowly focusing on a very short period of time in the lives of a very limited set of characters.

It is 1945. The allied forces are advancing across Germany where Hitler has declared “Total War”, mobilising every man, woman and child to make the Nazis’ inevitable defeat as costly as possible for the Allies. Thrust into this situation is young recruit Norman Ellison (Lorgan Lerman), trained as a typist not a combatant, who finds himself replacing the recently deceased member of a five-man tank crew. The tank is called Fury and the remaining four crew members are Boyd “Bible” Swan (Shia LaBeouf), Grady “Coon-Ass” Travis (Jon Bernthal), Trini “Gordo” Garcia (Michael Peña) and their leader Don “Wardaddy” Collier (Brad Pitt). None of them take kindly to the new addition to their tightly-knit group. Faced with the harsh reality of a war that has been dragging on for years, Norman struggles to adapt to his new job while also fighting to hold on to his humanity and ideals. In a way, they are all doing that but they don’t always succeed.

It is to the film’s great credit that, for the most part, it does not glorify any aspect of the war, or the actions and decisions of its characters. While the sheer abundance of gore does feel a little like war-porn at times, the film more than makes up for that in its quiet scenes, which are numerous and compelling. Ayer doesn’t shy away from portraying emotion and vulnerability, nor is he afraid to make his characters unsympathetic. Wardaddy in particular certainly makes more than one questionable decision, not a few of them cruel. “Ideals are peaceful,” he says by way of explanation. “History is violent.” Far from passing overt moral judgement, the film nevertheless succeeds in making viewers understand why these men are the way they are.

Interestingly, some of the most threatening scenes, especially from a woman’s perspective, happen during moments of respite, particularly one unbearably tense scene in a town house where Wardaddy’s crew find two women hiding in a flat. The sense that the initially tense but non-violent encounter could spiral out of control at any moment makes for highly uncomfortable viewing. However, rape is a violation the film barely implies – clearly, killing scores of people, especially Nazis, in combat sits easier with the conscience and the idea of the flawed hero (but hero nonetheless) than other ugly aspects of war.

Not all of Fury will work for everyone. German speakers will find Brad Pitt’s frankly awful pronunciation unintentionally funny at times. Also, the last twenty to thirty minutes, when Wardaddy decides to defend his tank against a whole battalion of SS rather than wait it out in the woods, may be stretching credibility a bit too far. The inferno of tank against battalion goes on for too long and feels somewhat like an ego-shooter as SS soldiers and tank-crew mow each other down with what feels like equal amounts of bullets and expletives. Those are the moments when Fury cannot quite sustain the suspense and credibility it strives for during most of its 135 minutes. It is also when the characters, especially Wardaddy, lose some of their complexity. Back are the war heroes so clearly favoured by American audiences.

Visually, the film is impressive, conveying the scale of “Total War” through fields littered with corpses and abandoned machinery, or countless airplanes streaming across the sky. The closed and sweaty environment inside the tank feels authentic, although the muted browns and greys of the production design make it look as if Germany was country in which the sun never shines.

As to DVD extras, there aren’t many: a couple of trailers, not all of them good, and a 10-minute documentary titled Blood Brothers detailing the experience of moulding the five lead actors into a tank-operating crew. That is worth watching as it speaks to the production crew’s commitment to authenticity, the tenacity of the actors and the effort by everyone involved to be true to the stories of the surviving WWII veterans the actors spoke to in preparation for the film. The way that Brad Pitt in particular describes the “bonding experience” would sound like the usual Hollywood waffle, except the bond between the actors actually does come across in the final film.

Ultimately, Fury is an impressive achievement with an authentic feel, great cinematography and outstanding performances. Fans will not regret having it on their shelves and it may even win over those not usually impressed by tales of war.

Anne Korn

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