Gutsy, grimy war flick drives home the horrors & haunts of combat
Starring Brad Pitt, Logan Lerman & Shia LeBeouf
Directed by David Ayer
War is hell, and this gripping WWII battle drama brings you about as close to the angry, anguished flames as anyone would ever want to get.
Brad Pitt stars as Sherman tank commander “Wardaddy” Collier, leading his battle-weary crew across Germany to finish off Hitler’s forces in early 1945. Wardaddy’s tank is nicknamed “Fury,” with its name written in white paint along its barrel.
Even though the war is almost over, the Nazis are desperate and determined to fight to the end, they greatly outnumber the Yanks, and their tanks are bigger, heavier and better fortified.
“Why don’t they just quit?” wonders an exhausted senior officer, who’s just learned of the slaughter of his men by a pocket of heavily fortified, entrenched Germans, who mowed them down in an open field. “Would you?” responds Wardaddy.
Indeed, the “would you?” question hangs heavy over much of the movie, as Wardaddy and his crew confront situations that force them to make instantaneous life-or-death, kill-or-be-killed decisions, and mounting atrocities become everyday occurrences. “This ain’t pretty,” explains grizzled Grady “Coon-Ass” Travis (Jon Bernthal) to the tank’s newest team member, wide-eyed Norman (Logan Lerman), who’d never seen combat until assigned to Wardaddy’s command. “This is what we do.”
Lerman’s character becomes the audience’s surrogate, as we share his shock, his revulsion and his reluctance to relent to what seems like madness. We wonder how much we could see before it starts to “do” something to us. We wonder what we’d do with our finger on the trigger of a turret-mounted machine gun, if we could kill other people on sight, without question, without pausing to think about who they are, what they might be planning to do, or what’s right and what’s wrong.
Wardaddy’s crew also includes Mexican-American “Gordo” Garcia (Michael Peña) and Scripture-quoting “Bible” Swan (Shia LeBeouf), who sings hymns to pass time and prods his tank mates to think if “Jesus loves Hitler.”
Writer-director David Ayer, whose other work includes Training Day and End of Watch, makes us feel every cramped, claustrophobic inch of Fury’s crowded interior space, a dreary metal dome where Wardaddy’s crew barely has room to move—or breathe, or bleed. The landscapes are all mud and muck; faces are dirty and grim; violence is intense; fear is everywhere.
We’ve seen other war movies, certainly—they’ve been a Hollywood staple for decades. But I can’t remember another movie—and certainly not another contemporary one—that’s taken such a hard, gritty, gutsy look at World War II tank warfare. There’s nothing glamorous or glorious about the battles, or the war, depicted in Fury. It’s tough, rough stuff, hard going, and—indeed—it “ain’t pretty.”
But it’s raw, it’s powerful and it sticks with you, especially in a scene when the crew rolls into a German town square, where a little bit of everything occurs. That square becomes a microcosm of war itself, and how it compresses and contorts the world, like a busted telescope with a smudged, shattered lens: life, death, love, hate, past, present, future—they’re all there, and then they’re not, gone in an instant, goodbye.
You won’t be cheering when Fury ends. But you’ll be thinking.
—Neil Pond, American Profile and Parade Magazines