The Second World War has provided a platform for a lot of cinema, exploring many different facets and angles of battle through various styles. In its subject matter, focussing its attention on an American tank crew heading into Nazi Germany in the spring of 1945, David Ayer’s action drama ‘Fury’ covers ground that is, to my knowledge, relatively untouched. Brad Pitt stars as Don ‘Wardaddy’ Collier, the fearless leader of the pack and is joined by a solid cast including Shia LaBeouf and Michael Peña. We join them in their tin can of terror just as they’ve lost a man and picked up a replacement in the sorely inexperienced Norman Ellison (Logan Lerman), a trained typist who has been in the army for just eight weeks. As he is thrust into conflict along with four bruised, war-torn figures, the differing perspectives of war are observed and the dynamics of the group are severely put to the test against all odds.
The film is just as much about five men living through their shared and personal struggles as it is about the canvas of war that surrounds them. Outside the tank, limbless bodies lay in their hundreds on vast battleground illustrating an achievement in Roman Vasyanov’s cinematography and inside, it is just as scary, due to the intensely claustrophobic atmosphere. The combat scenes which, apart from wildly bright bullet trails that look would look more at home in a sci-fi movie, are fairly run-of-the-mill and the strength should lie in the solidarity between the five soldiers, built up through their emotional journey. However, I felt the characters, despite their likeable ingredients, lacked the necessary depth to achieve an authentic sense of togetherness. By the end, we should be completely invested in them but instead, due to the absence of emotioneering, we have an isolated squad of stereotypes. The narrative treads the line aimlessly between brutal anti-war elements and glamorisation through camaraderie but gets lost somewhere in between.
‘Ideals are peaceful, history is violent’ is just one chunk of cheddar in Ayer’s script full of cheesy one-liners. In one quite cringeworthy sequence, each inhabitant of the Fury tank in turn shout out ‘the best job I ever had’. It attempts to accomplish the same all-for-one, one-for-all mentality that Band of Brothers excelled at but it is hard to get there in just over two hours. Brad Pitt is well cast and his usual undeniable screen presence is suited to the role. He looks the part with a razor-sharp cut and scarred physique, and is probably enjoying himself way too much, though from Tarantino’s unorthodox WWII picture ‘Inglourious Basterds’ we know how much he loves killing Nazis. Lerman also impresses with a great performance that transforms a terrified office boy into a Kraut-killing machine. A brief encounter with a young German girl is powerful and provides a short but pivotal turn in his rather rushed transition from boy to man.
The story trudges through unforgiving mud and turmoil up until an entertaining and suspenseful finale that doesn’t quite make up for the confused direction which mars the success as a whole. The ambition to make the film both grittily realistic and heroically valiant, as well as implementing aspects of religious symbolism is admirable but overstretched, and the one-dimensional set-up results in a more sensationalised outcome than the potential of the premise deserves. While the 76mm ‘Fury’ tank gun fires wide of the target, there are more World War II stories to be told on-screen in ‘The Imitation Game’ and ‘Unbroken’ later in the year, meaning that this vital part of history will continue to be immortalised in cinema.