Dir. David Ayer
There have been two high profile World War Two films out this year; Fury, headed up by Brad Pitt, and The Monuments Men, directed by and starring George Clooney. These two films couldn’t be more polar opposite to each other. The Monuments Men was light hearted in tone, ponderous, and most disappointingly, boring. Fury on the other hand is a punch to the gut that doesn’t let you go from the start. Making you look at the darkest of humanity, and asking you what you would do in the same situation. It is a movie about survival, courage, companionship and necessary evils. The Monuments Men asked whether art is worth dying for, after watching Fury you’ll think “fuck the art”.
Fury tells the story of a five-man tank crew advancing into Nazi Germany. Focusing on Wardaddy, the leader of the crew, played by Brad Pitt, and Norman, the new assistant driver of the titular tank, played by Logan Lerman. Norman has never had any combat training, much to the displeasure of Wardaddy, who has promised to keep his team alive. The film shows us the lengths that Wardaddy has to go to in order to keep his crew alive, and the extent to which Norman has to compromise his ideals in order to survive. The war isn’t the only conflict within the film, as the characters all have to battle with themselves over the acts they are committing, and come to blows with each other when emotions are running high.
This is one of the best war movies I have ever seen. It’s up there with Saving Private Ryan. They both share a similar visual style, and although Saving Private Ryan is bigger in scale, and nothing in Fury quite matches the opening beach landing of Saving Private Ryan, I think Fury is the better film. Ayer’s direction is nigh on faultless. A lot has been made of the violence and the gore on display in this film, but it is important to state that it isn’t gratuitous. It is balanced so that you never get desensitised to the gore. A leg being blown off in the middles of the film is just as shocking as it is at the end of the film. The film is grim to look at, it’s full of mud, blood, and sweat. It is incredibly visceral, but the subject matter demands it. It takes a good hard look at what human beings are capable of, and doesn’t flinch. It is a film which never pulls its punches. The plot moves along at a great pace, but also takes time in the quieter moments, really building the characters. You will love them, hate them, pity them, and cry for them. The battle scenes are brilliantly tense, and immediate. You feel each near miss. It has to be said though, that the most nerve shredding scene in the film is set around a dinner table, with just the five men of the tank crew and two German women. It’s in this scene where the film really shows what makes it so good, the performances.
Brad Pitt is simply outstanding in Fury. I have liked Brad Pitt as an actor for ages, and I honestly think he is one of the most underrated actors around. He commands this film with his performance. Powerful when he needs to be, subtle in the smaller moments. Like a grenade that could go off any second. When awards season comes round I wouldn’t be surprised to see him nominated in the best actor category. I also wouldn’t be surprised to see Logan Lerman nominated in a best supporting category. Excellent in Perks Of Being A Wallflower, Lerman is incredible here. His character is a boy at the start of the film, thrown into a world of hyper-masculinity, who will need to become a man in order to survive. His transformation is entirely believable and right at the heart of the film. Honourable mentions must also go to Michael Peña and Jon Bernthal, especially Bernthal who carries a real presence whenever he is on the screen. Shia LaBeouf also delivers his best work to date, and if he takes on more roles like this, performing at this level, he could become one of the best character actors around.
Fury, is exciting, visceral, and thoughtful. It’s a film about men. What men can do to each other, and how far we can compromise our minds, bodies, souls when we are fighting for something we believe in, or just fighting to survive. It is not for the faint of hearted, and that’s a good thing.