Bleak and Brutal - A ‘Fury’ Movie Review
by Will Lindus
‘Ideals are peaceful, history is violent.’ This line, spoken by Sergeant ‘Wardaddy’ (Brad Pitt), sets the tone for David Ayer’s brutal World War II film ‘Fury.’ The film follows a squad of five American soldiers, all manning the same tank, as they embark on a series of missions in Germany during a 24-hour period in 1945.
While the ethical decisions and tense combat sequences faced by the squad may feel familiar when compared to other World War II films, the unrelenting brutality of the movie carves a unique place for ‘Fury’ in the cinematic landscape. Replacing the typical patriotism and heroic beats commonly found in the genre are violent, bloody images that would make even the most hardcore horror fan cringe. Some of the gore comes across as exploitive and cheap; a soldier, burning to death, screams in pain as he quickly shoots himself in the head. A flattened corpse is driven into the mud by tank treads, and no one bats an eye. An M4 Sherman tank opens fire on an enemy combatant’s leg at close-range, raggedly severing it in an instant. That said, ‘Fury’ isn’t entirely violent for violence-sake. Many of the films more gruesome sequences are intimately tied to the gripping battle sequences that serve to remind you exactly what is at stake.
Director David Ayers is telling a ‘War is Hell’ story that focuses entirely on the ravages, and none of the glory, often associated with one of the most venerated wars in American history. Ayers is no stranger to the realm of warts-and-all storytelling; previously penned hits such as ‘Training Day’ and ‘The Fast and the Furious’ explored gritty, dirty worlds where no one was free from damning character flaws and dubious moral compasses.
‘Fury’ borrows several of the tricks in its playbook from ‘Training Day,’ focusing on an untested young soldier named Norman (Logan Lerman) as he is put through the ringer during the 24-hour tour with ‘Wardaddy’ and his crew. As Norman and his new comrades are beaten and battered by enemy ambushes, so to are we emotionally battered be this bleak war film. No doubt about it, ‘Fury’ will leave you feeling emotionally drained and exhausted. However, in a film climate that is quick to offer convenient parachutes from uncomfortable situations before they can become too overbearing, Ayers refusal to relent is bizarrely refreshing.
Each of the five principle actors delivers in ‘Fury,’ some in ways I wasn’t expecting. Jon Bernthal, Michael Peña, and even the internet’s whipping boy Shia LaBeouf turn in capable, character-driven supporting performances. These three teeter between admirable and despicable scene to scene, becoming a rogue’s gallery of characters that are surprisingly difficult to root for considering the subject matter. Brad Pitt delivers a solid performance as the stoic sergeant who serves as a balance between the rough-around-the-edges crew and the ideals of how we expect a war hero to act. In a world that is neither black nor white, Pitt finds a way to flourish in the complexity of the grey area.
While Brad Pitt’s name is most heavily associated with the marketing of this film, it is Logan Lerman who provides the film with the emotional counterweight that makes ‘Fury’ work. As a skittish, intellectual clerk, Lerman finds himself transferred aboard the tank, forced to adapt or die as the episodic missions unfold around him.
If you’ll forgive my hyperbole for a moment, Logan Lerman is a treasure, perhaps one of the finest actors under the age of 25 working in Hollywood today. The young actor banked indie cred from his amazing performance as Charlie in ‘The Perks of Being a Wallflower,’ but also wields mainstream appeal; ‘Noah,’ ‘Percy Jackson & The Olympians: The Lightning Thief,’ and ‘3:10 to Yuma,’ amongst others, add big-budget depth to his resume. Lerman is the core of ‘Fury,’ and without the sincerity that he brings to the role and to his character growth, the film would fall apart.
Final Verdict: ‘Fury’ is an oddity of a film, one that I’m surprised exists in this cinematic landscape. This certainly isn’t a film for all audiences. Ayers did not make this film for those with a weak stomach for gore or for those who feel uncomfortable casting WWII heroes as anything less than shining beacons of virtue. That said, if you’re comfortable with brutality, if you thrive moral ambiguity, if you crave white-knuckle action sequences, or if you want to see a young actor in a scene-stealing performance, I cannot recommend ‘Fury’ strongly enough.
4 out of 5 Bear Paws