Fury – 2014
Written and Directed by David Ayer
Starring Brad Pitt, Shia LaBeouf, Logan Lerman, Michael Peña, Jon Bernthal, Jason Isaacs, Scott Eastwood
How to get a coward to fight late in the last days before VE Day? This is the question that Fury spends its time trying to answer. Pvt. Norman “Machine” Ellison (Lerman) is a young man with a “conscience” who can’t bring himself to shoot dead men or a Kraut in the back. This position, along with a general uneasiness with his new role as gunner on the titular tank make him an easy target for the rest of his crew. Then when he shoots some men emerging in flames from a blown up tank, he’s told that he “should have let ’em burn.” His commander US Army S/Sgt. Don “Wardaddy” Collier (Pitt) us a straight forward fighter who understands the risk having someone of such a high learning curve on his 5 man crew.
“Ideals are peaceful. History is violent.”
Collier is not an unreasonable man. You can tell by the way that Pitt squints at opportune times that he has a lot on his mind. When he and Ellison come across a woman trying to hide her younger cousin, he asks them to make them a meal. While they do so, we get to see Collier take his shirts off, showing us how handsome he is, until he turns his back on them and we see what war has done. Still looks like Brad Pitt from the front, though as the older cousin gets to see and appreciate, after the two younger kids get to go in the back room and do stuff Disney-style. After all this serenity, the rest of the team (LaBeouf, Peña and especially Bernthal) come along and ruin the next meal. Not long after, German bombs arrive to ruin the rest of the day.
Next thing we see, they are given the important mission to protect a vital “crossroads” somewhere in Germany. What they are protecting and why is not necessarily as important as seeing how the team reacts and begins to bond. Of course with every encounter with the armaments of the enemy they lose people they are travelling with until they are down to just their one tank.
Soon enough, Fury is inoperable and 200-300 SS troops are on their way. Norman has steadily developed into a vital part of the team. His enthusiasm as a response to his Staff Sgt.’s bravery helps prepare them all for the fight of their lives.
Ayer’s film looks beautiful as anything he’s done. With all the dirt rubbed on the faces of his stars, all except Bernthal look like they head right for their trailer after every shot. For his part, LaBeouf is at his best as Technician 5 Boyd “Bible” Swan. His character has a real sense of clarity for one who should be more conflicted.
Bernthal has worked himself into a typecast in this role. It’s a good performance, but he’s got more in the his repetoire than a southern piece of trash nicknamed “Coon Ass.” Peña is able to make much of his role as driver Cpl. Trini Garcia. He has more than one excellent scene and just may be one of the most versatile actors around today.
Lerman has the benefit of being able to voice everything a person battling his conscience and his cowardice would. His role is not as believable, especially when he goes through the gauntlet just to end up right where he started. His dough eyes would have been obliterated with the rest of him in the first few minutes of a real battle.
Overall, Fury doesn’t offer much more story-wise than we’ve seen in other WWII films. It is presented with a lot of style and many moments of grace. One can tell, though, from the first frame who is going to die, in what order, and how many dramatic words they will get before it happens. Guess who will look the prettiest when the time comes. The war is a stage for spectacular moments and, ultimately just an ironic ending. It’s a good story, but it falls short of The Red Badge of Courage.