War is ghastly. We already know this but Fury is determined to drive the message home. Its grizzly depiction of life for American soldiers fighting in Nazi controlled Germany in 1945 reaffirms the horror of war and the unfathomable trauma it leaves on those “lucky” enough to survive it. Fury continues to portray the violence and absence of morality that comes with man’s decision to fight for his country but doesn’t have much else to contribute. The film’s title reflects the name of one US tank and its five inhabitants. Early on in the film the tanks commander refers to the vehicle as “home” and we are lead to believe that the soldiers who occupy it are its metaphorical dysfunctional family. We join Fury on her journey across rural Germany – lead by the ruthless Don Collier, his three wartime brothers and a sheepish new recruit, Norman. Norman has been in the army for a matter of weeks, seemingly unprepared for the unethical duties that come with being part of the Fury bunch. The film plays out over a couple of days in which time we are unrealistically expected to get to know this scruffy brigade, care for them and believe in Norman’s over-exaggerated and heavily rushed transition from timid office clerk to defiant and blood-thirsty killing machine. Fury is a patronising and confusing war film that has nothing defiant or insightful to say. It presents us with transparent and clichéd characters whose camaraderie is only occasionally convincing thanks to several consistent and bold performances from the likes of Shia LaBeouf and Logan Lerman.
Fury lacks a belief in itself which is shared by leading man Brad Pitt who seems to be having some kind of crisis of confidence and, as a result, has lost a portion of his on-screen identity. It is almost as though director David Ayer requested him to “do that thing you did in that Tarantino film. Do the Mr. big balls/Nazi-hating thing but make sure it is lacking in all humour and that it’s a hell of a lot duller”. I don’t blame Pitt directly, whom I still believe to be one of the most important actors of our time, but merely question his cinematic choices of late. Don Collier seemed like far too comfortable a role for an actor capable of so much more. Amidst all of its problems, Fury is well paced, well directed and expertly shot by cinematographer Roman Vasyanov. The performances are reasonably solid with Lerman and LaBeouf proving to be exceptionally good. It is pleasant to see LaBeouf reconfirming his under-appreciated talent after the recent run of odd behaviours from the young actor – and not forgetting a particularly dodgy cockney accent in Nymphomaniac. There is one particularly intense sequence between the US troops and one German tank in which camera work, performance and direction work harmoniously to produce the film’s most gripping and enjoyable scene. The screen is splattered with blood and mud amidst the red and green glow of what I have been informed are highly realistic bullet tracers. The bullet tracers are supposedly authentic but leave you convinced that George Lucas must have had some involvement in the final aesthetic of such scenes. Whether or not the colourful lasers add to the film’s sincerity they are a constant distraction throughout.
I remain convinced that Fury had good intentions but sadly it makes the classic error of thinking its audience need to be condescended to. There are many moments that would have benefited from being much more subtle and too many continuity errors that directly insulted the intelligence of the audience. The script is good enough but I remained unconvinced by the platoon’s mannerisms, language and authenticity. These felt more like soldiers from a Vietnam War film with their profanity, thuggish-ness and Pitt’s completely untimely haircut. Fury is certainly not all bad. It has some really great qualities which are all tragically over-shadowed by its moronic nature. Life inside a tank is convincingly brought to the eyes of the audience but is tainted by the phony family the movie forces upon us. Fury reaches its peak of stupidity in its closing minutes with a clichéd stroke of luck that ends the film on a confused note and with a really twisted final message that echoes the likes of “but not all Nazis…”
Thanks for reading and let’s all keep supporting our beloved film industry.