“Fury,” written and directed by David Ayer, may be one of the best war movies …ever. A visceral, raw look at the last days of WWII in Germany, we get a close, upfront view at what it’s like to be on the front lines of war from inside a tank, something rarely seen. “Fury” is based on a collection of true stories from real-life army veterans who spent their time during World War II in tanks. ‘Fury’ is the name given to the film’s M4A3E8 Sherman tank and the film centers on its five-man crew led by U.S. Army Sgt. Don ‘Wardaddy’ Collier (Brad Pitt). The men, who have been together since the campaign in North Africa, are joined by a young newcomer, Norman Ellison (Logan Lerman), when one of their crew is killed. Norman, fresh out of the typing pool and onto the battlefield, is not exactly what the group is looking for in their fight against the Germans. Therein lies much of the narrative and conflict…personally and professionally.
The story of the men’s push through Germany is told primarily through Norman’s eyes. While that might seem like a cliché, it’s necessary and it works because, like him, the audience is seeing everything for the first time, just like this rookie. When he’s frightened, we are as well. And when he’s toughened up by ‘Wardaddy’, we also feel bucked up.
Brad Pitt is exceedingly good as the world-weary group leader. Most of the time his character is encased in dirt and blood, but even without makeup you know he’s someone who by 1945 has seen it all—through his voice and eyes. Pitt is able to make his character seem like someone who is comfortable leading men…be they veterans or rookies. The entire supporting cast…the rest of tank crew and the German characters we meet are all outstanding, particularly fellow tank-mates Shia LaBeouf as Boyd ‘Bible’ Swan and Michael Peña as Trini ‘Gordo’ Garcia.
“Fury,” however, truly belongs to Logan Lerman and he carries the film masterfully on his character’s fragile shoulders. He is extremely believable as someone who’s probably never before held a gun, let alone killed anyone. Watching his Norman made me think of all the real-life WWII soldiers, like my Dad, who were drafted into the war. What must it have been like for them? My Dad, a NYC guy through and through, and unless he did some squirrel hunting in Central Park that he forgot to tell us about, never held a gun in his life before the war. Although he fought in the Pacific, Dad, like Norman, first did typing and steno work before seeing actual combat. He rarely talked about his war experience, but I believe that Norman represents all the men who were like my father—thrown into something completely alien to them on every level and having to adjust quickly. The fact that Lerman’s Norman could make me identify with him so viscerally only speaks to how wonderful Lerman is in the film and how tremendous the script is.
“Fury” is one of the few, possibly the only war movie revolving around a tank…possibly because the tank space is so cramped, there isn’t room for a lot of action, and face it, tanks don’t move at warp speed, so that precludes chase scenes. However, it’s just those circumstances that make “Fury” work so well. We actually sense how cramped the men are and that is what makes us feel like we are part of the action. Sometimes the film is so dark and the men so dirty, that it’s hard to know what is happening. That only adds to the film’s intensity and grittiness. The scenes in the small German towns are eerie in their silent moments as you hold your breath expecting for something to happen. And when the setting shifts to combat in utter darkness, you really have no idea of who has emerged victorious, just as in real life.
“Fury” works excellently on every level. When you leave the theatre, you’ll feel like you’ve been in battle, too. While a story about men and tanks, “Fury” is, in reality, a wonderful, lasting tribute to all our WWII soldiers.