You’d be forgiven for supposing director David Ayer (End of Watch) and producer/lead star Brad Pitt’s latest offering, Fury, serves as a scholastic depiction of military strategy during wartime or the exploitation of key historical battles at the closing stages of World War II. Rather, it acts as a focussed meditation on the morality and ‘Us vs. Them’ mentality of Allied soldiers having served together for years across various war-torn countries.
A stellar all-male cast is assembled: Pitt impresses as unsympathetic sergeant Wardaddy, while Shia LaBeouf and John Bernthal both shine respectively as the religiously and sensitive Boyd Swan and dim-wittedly primitive Grady Travis. Newcomer Logan Lerman showcases his thespian maturity as innocent rookie assistant tank driver Norman Ellison, in a role that demands subtlety and restraint. Michael Pena rounds off this motley crew as a, it must be said, slightly racial stereotyped Mexican, Gordo. Not given enough time to do anything really memorable, Pena does what he does proficiently enough.
There is no doubt Fury is a slickly crafted film. Ayer and Director of Photography Roman Vasyanov effortlessly capture the claustrophobic anxiety of tank warfare. Through numerous skilled set pieces, the inescapability of war hits home hard and fast. There is no absconding conflict for soldiers confined to a modestly sized M4A3E8 Sherman tank.
Although some characters are explored in depth – Ayer unsurprisingly reserves the majority of his intricate characterisation for the American platoon who inhabit their travelling weapon – German soldiers and civilians are barely studied, and considerably underwritten; with the former in many scenes reduced to silhouetted, ghoulish baddies. This shortcoming notably restricted Ayer’s previous effort, End of Watch, from elevating itself above action-packed melodrama. However, Fury was never intended to question the biased representation of conflicting parties, and any such criticism does seem irrelevant. This film is about a tank, it’s men and the horrors they have faced.
Whilst some critics may bemoan this star-studded action-fest for its simplistic narrative and thinly written supporting characters, Fury does contribute to the saturated war-film canon by convincingly depicting the raw inhumanity war demands of its servicemen, particularly the lasting effects years of combat will have on its survivors. It may lack the realism and sophisticated introspection of Saving Private Ryan, Full Metal Jacket and Apocalypse Now, by failing in its reflexivity towards those that exist outside the walls of it’s key American tank, but there are some elements, particularly turns by LaBeouf and Lerman, that are to be admired.