Fury is a film written and directed by David Ayer. Fury takes place during the final days in the European Theatre of World War II, and it follows Sergeant “Wardaddy” (Brad Pitt) and his five-man crew as they journey behind enemy lines in their Sherman tank, nicknamed “Fury.” The men of “Fury” are thrust into dangerous circumstances with fatal odds, and they must fight heroically to destroy Nazi Germany.
I have been excited to write about Fury since I saw it on its opening weekend in theaters. Because amazing classics like The Thin Red Line and Saving Private Ryan have set the bar high in regards to what is expected from a “great” WWII film, most attempts at depicting the horror of the Second World War have fallen flat. In my opinion, Fury is not one of those failures. David Ayer, the Fury visionary, has created a story with an incredible sense of realism. And that realism not only speaks to the actual fighting parts of war, but it also depicts “brotherhood” in a way that everyone (not only veterans) can relate to. Ayer is no stranger in the industry, having penned Training Day and written and directed 2012’s End of Watch, and the latter film provides the foundation for Fury’s pragmatism. End of Watch was one of the best films from 2012, and in that film, Ayer perfected the “comradeship” concept as it followed two police officers. When I watched End of Watch, I felt as if I were an invisible third member of the law enforcement duo, and I was able to fully encompass the characters’ brotherly love for one another. The same is true for Fury. Yes, the film includes some great “war” scenes, but its best parts are the scenes in which the characters engage in extended dialogue with each other. In those scenes, Ayer’s hardnosed screenplay is given life in a way that delineates the unique relationships between brothers in combat, and it makes you empathize with those men throughout the film’s most brutal moments and laugh with them in the moments of joy.
Now, let’s talk about the film’s combat. I have already discussed Ayer’s ability to revolve some of his best scenes in a WWII film around dialogue. But do not be mistaken—the movie excels tremendously in the scenes depicting combat. Ayer went to extreme ends to ensure that the film would be as realistic as possible in the war scenes, and it pays significant dividends. Ten actual Sherman tanks were used to depict the ones used by the allied forces, and instead of using a prop tank to represent the Germans’ Tiger tanks, Ayer acquired the only working Tiger tank in the world to use (pictured to the left; the tank belongs to the Bovington Tank Museum in England). The combat scenes were incredibly stunning thanks to Ayer’s depiction of the tracers that were actually used in the war. Tracer ammunition is used in every fifth round, and its pyrotechnic charge ignites, burns brightly, and makes the shot’s projectile visible. Military forces would use these for purposes of making aiming corrections and to be more efficient (soldiers would be able to fire repeatedly without having to use a sight). The portrayal of the tracer ammunition’s deployment was a fantastic sight to see, and it was one of the highlights of the film. Although it is extraordinarily complicated to show the true horror of war, a WWII tank veteran confessed that the film was very representative of his experiences in Europe—specifically, he stated that the combat scenes were amazingly realistic.
The acting performances from Fury’s tank ensemble are by far the best part of the movie. In order to develop a sense of companionship among the tank’s soldiers that would mimic the veracity of these relationships during wartime, Ayer required his actors to engage in some serious bonding tactics. He forced the actors to spar with each other regularly, which was rumored to result in many black eyes and bloody noses. Additionally, he had them live together in the tank when not shooting; thus, they ate, slept, and even used the restroom inside of the tank. This “method” approach to performing provided some high-quality performances.
As I mentioned in my Fall Preview post, I buy into the allure of Brad Pitt as an actor. Yes, he is a pop-culture icon, but he backs it up on camera. He is one of the best actors of his generation, and in Fury, he holds nothing back. As the commander of the tank, Pitt gives a (no pun intended) commanding performance. As the veteran actor in the group, portraying the veteran member of the tank crew, Pitt anchors the film.
Each of the other four members of the “Fury” adds the most crucial layer of talent to the movie. Michael Peña, an experienced performer (and one of the two leads in Ayer’s End of Watch) is the least groundbreaking of the tank’s crew in terms of his acting contribution, but he is still solid throughout. Logan Lerman, one of my favorite new actors (The Perks of Being a Wallflower), plays the role of the rookie Private Norman Ellison to a tee. The two most enthralling performances, however, come from Jon Bernthal and Shia LaBeouf. Bernthal, of The Wolf of Wall Street and The Walking Dead fame, delivers one of the most menacing performances in recent memory. At times he is terrifying and manic, but Bernthal is also able to carefully articulate the more sensitive qualities of his character. But LaBeouf steals the show with the film’s most top-shelf portrayal. In real life, LaBeouf has endured years of scandal, but with his role in Fury, he proves to us that no matter what goes on in his personal life, he is willing to lay it all on the line for his career. LaBeouf notably pulled his own tooth for the role, while vowing not to shower throughout the production—his dedication to the truisms of his character is a benefit to film fans everywhere. His character shows his emotional colors more so than the others, and LaBeouf delivers a captivating performance. Fury is rated R for strong sequences of war violence, some grisly images, and language throughout.
Fury trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p1xli7OTE_0
Academy Award nominations for Fury:
Previous movies on the countdown of the Top 15 Films of 2014:
- Gone Girl
- The Lego Movie