It’s April 1945 and the Allies are winning.
But for the Americans on the frontlines in Nazi Germany it sure as hell doesn’t feel like it.
Written and directed by David Ayer, FURY is a bloody and brutal saga chronicling the last weeks spent in a Sherman M4 (affectionately called FURY) as five guys wage a desperate battle against the Nazis in the last weeks of the Second World War. Led by Sergeant Don “Wardaddy” Collier (Brad Pitt) the stoic morally righteous father figure the team is fully equipped with the expected war characters: there’s the bible quoting gunner Boyd Swan (Shia LaBeouf) the uncouth but diamond-in-the-rough mechanic Grady Travis (Jon Bernthal) and token Mexican-American driver Trini Garcia (Michael Peña) who until now have managed against all odds, to survive. Unfortunately they’ve recently lost their assistant driver and have been assigned Norman Ellison (Logan Lerman) the latest wide-eyed skinny kid to fulfil the role of forward gunner. His record till date is 60 words per minute.
It’s undeniably a tale of how war forces boys to become men – sometimes quite literally. Young Norman is terrified. Utterly nauseated by the bloodied remains of his predecessor (which he is forced to mop up in order to inherit his seat) and unwilling to shoot dead soldiers – he is the audience’s surrogate. But just like with any video game as time progresses it becomes easier. Or at least that’s what the young recruit tells himself to make it seem like it’s the “best job ever”.
But if Norman’s character is one of the most obvious clichés the film itself is not overly ambitious. There is the compulsory sex scene between the officers in the house of a terrified German woman and her cousin (and the audience breathes a sigh of relief it wasn’t rape) the equally mandatory Brad-with-his-shirt-off ogling moment and some quintessential glimpses into personal transformation which are rather humdrum.
As a narrative it is predictable and largely unimaginative but what FURY does offer is some of the best footage of tank warfare. Fast and easily manoeuvrable this Sherman M4 is no match for the German panzers (especially the Tiger II) who are slow but dense and far less penetrable than their American counterparts. And while not quite as comparable to Spielberg’s Saving Private Ryan the film nevertheless offers sufficient adrenaline pumping moments that recycle images of squelched bodies, heads popped off and bloody trickles that ooze out of all imaginable orifices as disembodied limbs somersaulting through the scarlet sunsets. Streaked with hues of brown, black and grey Roman Vasyanov has done a brilliant job with the photography and Stephen Price’s unrelentingly mournful score is its perfect complement.
Technically the film is excellent and should you crave a debate on whether the hand grenades footage was realistic enough it’s probably worth seeing – even a few times. But aside from the sophisticated crafting and the relatively good performances (nothing surprising or brilliant) the film thematically offers nothing new or illuminating. While it may be a cinematic tour-de-force that isn’t for the faint-hearted it inevitably succeeds best in peddling in war tropes.