Review: Fury

You might notice this review isn’t headlined as ‘Unlimited’ – I saw this on a plane to Dubai. Not exactly comparable to a cinema, but what the hell! This is already out on DVD as well.

Fictional World War Two movies more than hold their own against those based on actual events, with Saving Private Ryan perhaps the most significant example. Fury, I believe, heralds a new subgenre of the type, in that it almost feels like director David Ayer felt (as Spielberg might have done with his D Day scene) that the gore and gristle of war shouldn’t be hidden – millions of men were blown apart, eviscerated and wiped out to bring it to an end, and Fury feels like a conscious effort to drive that point home.

Crew members of the tank ‘Fury’, including ‘Wardaddy’ (Brad Pitt), ‘Bible’ (Shia Leboeuf), ‘Coon-Ass’ (Jon Bernthal) and ‘Gordo’ (Michael Pena) are shattered, battle-hardened veterans of the conflict, and are in Germany in 1945 as the war enters its final stages. New gunner Norman (Logan Lerman) joins the tight-knit unit and instantly realises, in the words of Eric Cartman, “war is hell”.

Now I have no experience of tanks or tank fighting, but this film felt authentic. The grim interior of the tanks, their smoky and mechanical movement, and the strenuous weapon loading all bring home the conditions these men had to put up with. Some of the battles in fact are tense and gripping, even though we’re talking about tonnes of metal travelling under 30 miles per hour. This attention to detail and history helps ground the film in many ways.

The gore and viscera meanwhile are about as grim as you’d expect to see in war footage – one early example in particular goes further than most war films do. But this fits the aesthetic of the film as accurate, honest representation, even if the plot does not.

Acting-wise, Pitt is stoic with a capital C here, playing the leader and inspiration to his men. As with a lot of his roles, I felt at times that you couldn’t get past the Pitt-ness – the man sometimes can’t seem to reach the heights of his 90s heyday, and the performances where he tried something other than smouldering charm. ‘Wardaddy’ isn’t even a patch on Aldo Raine from Inglourious Basterds, but his macho-man performance does the job.Fury_2014_poster

Of the tank crew, the best performance – and it shocks me to say – is from the world’s nuttiest man, Shia Labeouf. Having left behind the teenage idiot shtick, Labeouf is like a man transformed (immersion in the role led him to tear out a tooth himself and not wash for a week). His pious, damaged ‘Bible’ is the conscience of the group, with his face telling stories of the horrors they’ve endured together, and I was really quite impressed.

Bernthal’s dirty hick idiot is becoming the actor’s go-to role (see Walking Dead and Wolf of Wall Street), while Pena is the darkly comic relief, but neither man has much to other than the archetype. Lerman meanwhile is the unready kid exposed to conflict before our eyes, and the young actor does well to express the character’s haunted perspective. You do really get a sense that this bunch are a team – they’ve experienced the very worst together, and it’s quite interesting to see this dynamic of war onscreen.

The film’s soundtrack from Steven Price goes a long way towards bolstering the tension and action, while the grimy and greyed-out look is both similar and yet different to most set in the period – accurately-portrayed tracers from bullets appear green, and give the film a really strange, almost sci-fi look at times.

Coming back to the idea of fictional war films, the conclusion to Fury actually lets the good parts of the film down, as it stretches credibility to snapping point and then breaks it entirely with one character interaction right at the end. After throwing the nonchalance and hate of war at us for a couple of hours, the film then takes a flight of fancy, and it took me out of it.

Other elements of the film, such as a visit to an apartment in a recently-seized German town, felt as if they were trying to take what Tarantino did with the aforementioned Inglourious Basterds (think scenes of unbearable tension), but the writing of these scenes doesn’t compare, and you feel that the scene is part diversion, part another attempt to get us to realise how indiscriminate war is.

All in all, this is not a bad film – better, in fact than I expected. However, it could have been great with better writing, a more plausible conclusion and some better-developed characters.

 

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