Fury (2014)

Posted by Joel Copling on October 16, 2014

When one really gets to the core of it, there's nothing about writer/director David Ayer's "Fury" we haven't seen before in a war movie. We've witnessed stories of courage under fire. We've seen the speeches from a commander to his subordinate soldiers just before the fight reaches its darkest moment. We've seen the oo-rah jingoism of the genre at its most shameless. But "Fury," which most definitely contains all of these elements (some of which threaten to overwhelm), frames it in the bluntest, most pitiless narrative a film like this has seen in some time. So battle-worn is it that the final shot, which can easily be misconstrued for "happy," reminds us that the building in front of which the climactic gunfight takes place was merely a checkpoint.

Don Collier (Brad Pitt) and his band of brothers--including Trini Garcia (Michael Pena), the born-again Boyd Swan (Shia LaBeouf), and the crazy-eyed Grady Travis (Jon Bernthal)--are the last of a platoon that has been decimated by the Nazis in WWII-era Germany. They lost a man in the tank in which they held their position (or attempted to do so), and the replacement is none-too-impressive at first glance: a clerk typist named Norman Ellison (Logan Lerman) who has only clocked eight weeks in the service. He and the job definitely don't get along: Removing half of the face that has been blown off the previous gunner's head and onto the seat which Norman must now fill is probably not a great tonic for the nerves.

The significant narrative drive in "Fury" is the series of checkpoints these five soldiers must defend, from a village in which Don and Nelson enjoy a home-cooked meal with a woman and her cousin while brutality wages just outside the window (This sequence is nicely written and acted but doesn't really go anywhere of note--at least, until it all goes to Hell in a handbasket) to a crossroads at which they must defend themselves in a damaged-beyond-repair tank against an entire battalion of Nazis. It's a repetitive series of events that doesn't so much as end when the credits come as it comes to a natural stopping point. The story, of course, still continues after those hellish events.

Leave it to the actors to give this material the gravity it needs. Bernthal and Pena play what seem to be surface caricatures of lean, mean soldiers, though each gets his moment of clarity. Pitt and LaBeouf are excellent as inseparable brothers-in-arms; the connection between them, hinted to be more than friendly in nature by others who have missed the point, is palpable and stunningly well-performed by both actors. Lerman is a force of nature, the subject through whose eyes we witness these acts of violence and heroism. Jason Isaacs has a memorable appearance, too, as a captain barely veiling his fear of the outcome of this war If "Fury" wallows greatly in the Hell that is war (which, the film's tagline so truthfully states, does not end quietly), it also focuses crucially on the human lives in its path.

Film Information

Brad Pitt (Don Collier), Logan Lerman (Norman Ellison), Jon Bernthal (Grady Travis), Shia LaBeouf (Boyd Swan), Michael Peņa (Trini Garcia), Jason Isaacs (Captain Waggoner), Scott Eastwood (Sergeant Miles).

Directed and written by David Ayer.

Rated R (war violence, grisly images, language throughout).

134 minutes.

Released on October 17, 2014.