Grady Travis: Best job I ever had.
David Ayer’s latest film, FURY, wants so badly to be a great war film. What Ayer forgets while he is trying so hard is that having great combat sequences isn’t enough to carry a film, especially one about WWII.
The film opens in Germany, 1945, the war is coming to an end, and the defeat of the Germans is inevitable, but by no means are they going to go out quietly. Brad Pitt plays Sgt. Don “Wardaddy” Collier, who is in charge of a large tank, aptly named “Fury”, and its five-man crew. With his team, Collier will move through Germany, eliminating any Nazi soldiers they come across along the way. With the recent death of one of the tank’s gunners, the inexperienced Norman Ellison (Logan Lerman) is sent to join Collier’s unit. While the rest of the soldiers (Shia LaBeouf, Michael Peña, and Jon Bernthal) treat Norman with hostility, the group is forced to band together if they want to stay alive.
As far as the action goes, FURY is great. The many tank combat scenes are well choreographed and expertly shot. The bullets often look like lasers out of the STAR WARS films, but you just have to go with it. The problem comes with the heart of the film. It is obvious that FURY wants to be so much more than your average war film, but the problem is, it’s not. There is however one great scene that happens off the battlefield. During a break in the battle, Collier and Ellison walk into what they think is an abandoned apartment. The two find a well-kept unit, which is occupied by two young German women (Anamaria Marinca and Alicia von Rittberg), who don’t speak a word of English. Collier speaks fluent German, but for the most part, the two pairs remain silent. Collier cooks breakfast for Ellison and the two women, and what follows is a quietly heartwarming scene that stands above any battle sequence in the film.
The acting in the film is very strong. Pitt’s Collier may remind some viewers of a darker version of his Aldo Raine, from Quentin Tarantino’s INGLORIOUS BASTERDS. Regardless of the similarity, Pitt is great in the role, and is never overshadowed by his screen-commanding crew. Perhaps he biggest surprise comes from LaBeouf. He steals almost every scene he’s in, and that wouldn’t be a surprise if one knew how much effort he put into the role. To get into character, LaBeouf knocked out one of his teeth and apparently refrained from showering throughout the shoot. That sounds pretty extreme, but that’s method acting for you, or at least LaBeouf’s interpretation of it anyway.
Though it runs over two-hours-long, FURY never drags. Like the tank it is name after, it plows ahead with strength and might. And while Ayer succeeds in showing the horrors of combat, and keeping us entertained while doing so, he misses the mark entirely when it comes to the humanity lying underneath all the violence.