“Fury” Movie Review

     Writer/Director David Ayer arrived on scene in 2000 with his screenplay for the submarine film “U-571” and went on to pen the screenplays for both “The Fast and the Furious” and “Training Day” just a year later.  Typically, his writing has a very streetwise style to it and that style has also translated to his career as a director as well.  As one could attest from viewing his film “End of Watch” and this year’s “Sabotage”, the settings for Ayer’s films are full of dirty and grimy alley ways and poorly lit housing projects populated by the type of people most would only see in their nightmares.  It stands to reason that Ayer has chosen to run a war time scenario through this filter with the resulting film becoming “Fury”, the story of a U.S. Army tank crew sent behind enemy lines in World War 2 Nazi Germany. 

     Though “Fury” is devoid of any real plot or story, Ayer effectively saddles the audience within the claustrophobic confines of a second world war Allied Sherman tank, which is manned by five operators and sent directly into harms way on any and all missions meant to push forward through a war torn Nazi Germany.  In essence, Ayer has created a film similar to his “End of Watch” in that the audience rides along and experiences everything the soldiers do from their point of view as it happens.  When the film opens, we are told immediately the German tanks are superior and yet these men push forward regardless of the odds.  What we see on film in “Fury” is a true example of selfless service as these men have completely embraced the ideas behind what they are fighting for and exhibit this with a “win under any and all circumstances” attitude.

     When the tank crew, led by War Daddy (Brad Pitt), arrives at a forward operating base in 1945 Nazi Germany, they do so having lost their assistant driver, who is replaced by a soldier that claims to have been trained as a clerk typist, but has found himself thrust directly into the front lines of battle.  Played by Logan Lerman, Norman is like us, the audience, unknowing and scared.  He becomes the focal point of what Ayers wants to show us as his first order of business becomes cleaning the gruesome remains of his predecessor off the seat he will shortly be performing his duties from.  The story itself only spans the duration of about 24 hours and thus Norman really has no choice but to become the kind of soldier his teammates can depend on quickly.  As a young person, perhaps only 18 years old, it’s amazing what the stress and pressure of war can do to make you grow up in a hurry.  In these types of situations, it’s either you perform at the level expected or you die.  Plain and simple.

     There haven’t been a lot of tank related war films in recent memory, so Ayer has a distinct advantage with “Fury” in that everything he is showing us has a unique kind of newness and authenticity to it.  “Fury”, which is the name of the tank manned by our heroes, is really unlike any war film I have ever seen in that respect; however, nearly everything the characters  say and do is for the most part overly familiar. The aforementioned War Daddy is a battle hardened leader everyone respects.  In one scene, having lost his commanding Officer, a Captain going over a battle plan tells War Daddy “I’ve heard of you, I know you know what you’re doing.”  He’s that kind of character, a hero who can seemingly do no wrong and is destined to make the right call under fire.  Boyd (Shia LaBeouf), the tank gunner, reads his bible regularly and does his best to keep the crew grounded even in the most stressful of situations.  Trini (Michael Pena) is the lead driver and takes Norman under his wing when he at first has difficulty shooting the enemy.  Grady (Jon Bernthal from the first two seasons of “The Walking Dead”) is the hard ass bully every war film has to have.  He speaks in a overdone Southern drawl and uses his size and experience advantage over the clearly tormented Norman every chance he gets.  In between battle sequences, these characters aren’t given much to say or do, but when they come together on the battle field, they really shine and exhibit unbelievable screen presence as a group.

     As the tank crew moves from town to town, the setting they find themselves in was not unlike those depicted in “Full Metal Jacket” during the battle of Hue City.  They encounter German snipers in buildings and utilize the power of the tank’s main gun to literally drop buildings.  The towns they arrive in are normally already reduced to rubble, that or they soon will be.  Upon arriving in one such town, Norman and War Daddy happen upon two German women while searching a building and are invited into their apartment (kind of) for a meal while the others in the platoon drink and party in the streets down below.  For a few minutes, you can feel the reprieve Norman is experiencing as he finds himself in a situation resembling normalcy.  Of course, not long after, Norman is reminded just how horrible war can be and Ayer takes full advantage of what he can show us through Norman’s eyes with a full array of gruesome and brutal war violence.  These scenes play significantly more realistic within the theater of war than they did in South Central Los Angeles where Ayers attempted to trump up the actions of his characters by inserting them into over the top foot chases and video game style running gun battles.  In a film like “Fury”, you expect the worst and when the characters succeed, you feel their sense of accomplishment.  That is, until the next mission where they (and you) have no idea what might be waiting for them.  GRADE: B