Let’s be clear from the get-go: I walked into this film having seen a trailer about seven or eight months ago while on a bit of a bender. From what I remember, it seemed promising, assuming that Shia LaBeouf didn’t still have some runoff from his time as the lead in Transformers. Brad Pitt, tanks, that guy from the Walking Dead, what could wrong?
Not a damn thing.
This movie is about as solid as the armor of a tank, demonstrated in great detail throughout the film. The casting of Brad Pitt as Wardaddy, the commander of an M4A2 Sherman tank, plays beautifully off of each of his comrades in arms. His developing relationship with Logan Lerman’s character Norman, the audience’s looking glass into the story, takes a typical father/son route of many new recruit and commanding officer troupes, however the subtleties of Pitt’s acting forgives the liberties taken with the script.
Typical of many war movies, the film begins in the fashion of the new guy arriving to upset an already well established, well-oiled war machine. Initially uninterested in having Norman apart of the group, Gordo and Coon-Ass (played by Michael Peña and John Bernthal) harass him incessantly. At this point the contrast between the group and Norman is apparent. The makeup of the film is near perfect, the soldiers are grimey and tired, they look like they’ve seen some serious action.
The film, much like Saving Private Ryan, ups the gore of war to eleven, showing the sheer brutality they don’t mention in your typical history lesson about WWII. People burned alive, shot, stabbed, exploded, run over, obliterated, bombed, hanged and left to rot, the whole gambit. As much as Spielberg made sure that nothing was left to the imagination in his trendsetting war movie, writer and director David Ayer made a point to show as much death as possible, to the point of nausea for all but hardened movie-goers. The movie unfortunately suffers from anti-hero syndrome, a brutal affliction that forces the antagonist to be even more messed up than the main characters, who are quite brutal in their actions themselves.
Chief among this heavy hitting cast is Shia LaBeouf, whose spotty record of hit or miss with his acting made me unsure of his ability to perform. However his dedication to his character, Bible, brings the cast together without stealing the scene nor underwhelming the audience when it is his time to speak.
The pacing enjoys a lovely roller coaster plot, unburdened by twists and turns, being a much more straightforward film than many expect. The overall meaning of the film is not left to interpretation and is almost flat-out said rather loudly at us halfway through the film.
I won’t speak of the character development for a personal code of not spoiling the film, and just say that much of the overall change occurs primarily between Brad Pitt and the main character. Norman was given many different reasons to change his path, and could have been a satisfactory character with just the one. However having more than one kinda devalues the overall point, proving that some writers believe you need more than one extremely traumatic life event to utterly alter your outlook.
My grandfather and great grandfather tell stories of their times in a tank. The cramped conditions, the trophies, maneuvers and commands to direct the war machine, and how instantly an armor to armor battle can turn sour. All of this is spelled out perfectly in Fury, giving a visual correction of what I imagined those fights being. They truly got every technical specification down to the letter, going so far as to rebuild a Tiger Tank, the nearly unstoppable late war Nazi armor, and give the film an unprecedented level of attention to detail in a WWII movie.
All in all, Fury is a very strong contender for a popcorn drama. Excellent cinematography and costumes, on point casting and the direct nature of the plot creates a very easy film many will connect with, and will likely contend for an Oscar this season. If you were a huge fan of Saving Private Ryan, many of the undertones may be familiar, but will not stop you from loving this film.