I’ve always been an admirer of War films and how they portray the many different aspects of the type of atmospheres that war creates. There are so many individual stories to tell, as well as large-scale stories that are just as riveting. There is never much beauty among fighting and dying, but there are still beautiful moments that manage to standout and that aspect of brotherhood and fighting for the man next to you is such a sensational phenomenon. Whereas some war films hold back and don’t show you too much, others don’t hold back and attempt to give you the best picture of war that they can, even if that means showing you some truly horrific things. It’s those films that I admire the most, because that may be as close as we ever get, or will want to get.
April, 1945. The second World War is coming to an end, but the fighting is getting worse by the day. Hitler has declared that all men, women, and children shall fight in a final stand against the Allied forces. On the ground, foot soldiers and tanks enter Germany in an effort to neutralize the Nazi threats in small German towns. Don ‘Wardaddy’ Collier commands the tank code-named ‘Fury” and he and his crew are the only ones to make it back alive. Well, mostly alive, as their gunner was killed and his remains still stain the inside of the massive tank. Trini ‘Gordo’ Garcia (Michael Pena) drives the tank, Grady ‘Coon-Ass’ Travis (Jon Bernthal) loads the shells, and Boyd ‘Bible’ Swan (Shia LaBeouf) fires the tank’s primary gun. After returning to base, beaten and scarred, their job only gets tougher.
Norman Ellison (Logan Lerman), just a few weeks into his time in the ARMY as a typist, has been assigned to the Fury and is to be the new gunner working with Wardaddy. With no tank or fighting experience, things are tough on both Norman and the crew. His reluctance to kill and the crew’s need for him to kill creates a mental and physical conflict that brings up the morality of war and how quickly and how much it can change someone. When it’s your life and the life of your fellow brothers, or the lives of another, you must make a truly taxing choice. The stakes get even higher as Fury becomes the only tank that stands in the way of a truly terrifying number of Nazi troops. Having to hold the ground by themselves, the crew has to make the ultimate choice in whether or not they fight or flee.
Fury launches you into the middle of a bloody war that’s fought by some imperfect men, banding together to fight for their country and the man next to them. To say that I was absolutely floored by this film is an understatement, as I found my heartbeat increasing steadily thought out the film. The goosebumps never wavered, as the tensions and violence grew before my eyes. More than that, my heart was invested in these characters and the war they were fighting, so it’s natural that tears came to my eyes at times and that my emotions went for a roller-coaster ride. Never has war looked so gruesome, afflicting, beautiful and life-changing. I sat in my chair for quite some time after the film had ended, unable to move and still processing what I’d witness. The final images in this film are so incredibly powerful and the title sequence is equally as moving.
Director David Ayer has proved two things with his latest projects which work on this film’s behalf. End of Watch put us in the front seat with two cops, their bond, and the tensions that come with going in to take down the bad guys. Sabotage proved that Ayer knew how to direct insane action and that he didn’t care how much blood was sprayed and how many limbs were lost. Together, those aspects create a very Saving Private Ryan-like aspect in this film, only in the sense that none of the violence and tension is held back. Watching men being blown and ripped apart by shells and bullets is horrifying, but even more horrifying is how unfazed most of the soldiers are by it. For once, battle looks and feels real and it’s terrifying. Lerman serves as our outside vessel, responding as we would to truly disturbing events.
In the midst of all the chaos and atrocities of war, there are some very touching, beautiful moments in this film that bring us back to humanity, if only for a moment. When the fighting stops, the celebration of life begins and we really get to see how these soldiers react to feeling safe for some time. More than that, most of them get a chance to return to humanity, as they find a break from senselessly slaughtering their enemies. It’s those moments that really standout in this film, as we get to know our group of tankers and what’s gotten them to this point. They recount stories, discuss their lives, and even express their concerns. Through it all, no matter how desperate the situations become, they stick together. Even when they make questionable calls, these men don’t leave each other’s sides and that expression of brotherhood and commitment really made a wonderful impression on me.
Each one of the soldier’s has their own unique characteristics to them and the actors effortlessly create memorable, enticing characters. Logan Lerman does the most with the least here, as he joins the other’s very late in the game. He goes from typist to tank gunner and all of that is evident in his eyes and expressions. War scares the living hell out of him and he can’t bring himself to pull the trigger, even if it means almost costing his friends their lives. He has many moral issues with how soldiers behave around women, with their treatment of one another, and how cynical they are about war. Brad Pitt starts off much like his character from Inglorious Basterds, but his powerful emotion and reflection of war really bring his character to life later on. He, like the other men, is corrupted by war and that’s evident in his frustration over Lerman not wanting to kill. I was pleasantly surprised by Shia LaBeouf, who’s religiously battered character connects extremely well. The tears in his eyes, the cuts on his face, and the missing tooth all add to the authenticity to this film and things only get more frightening when Jon Bernthal comes into play, as he’s nearly all monster. He and Pena are almost opposites, but both made me unsettled in their views and how they operate during wartime.
The scope of this film is really something special, as we don’t get much information about what’s happened before these characters got here. To quote Pitt, “Ideals are peaceful… History is violent.” With that in mind, we’re thrown into these seemingly final days of war and we get to witness the finale with these men, rather than their journey. War is immediate and sometimes surprising with how quickly it arrives and you’ve got to think quick if you want to survive. For me, I found myself a sucker to the stories these men told and the odd bonds that they shared with one another. I love the quote “Best job I ever had”, which reveals all you need to know about these characters dedication to their country, the war, and most importantly one another. Times couldn’t be worse, but as long as they stick together, there’s a fighting chance that they can come out on the other side. I don’t mind admitting that my eyes watered up and that my body recoiled at what I saw. This film really spoke to me on some deep levels and it’s crazy to think that I’ll see much more this year that moves me in such a way.
Fury, named after the tank operated by our leading soldiers, is more furious than you can imagine and more of a threat than other films may have expected. This isn’t some overly masculine, typical war movie that you can write off. You’d be doing a disservice by categorizing this film before you see it because it really does a number on you. I can’t stress enough just how talented this cast is and how blown away I was by Logan Lerman’s performance. He really does represent your average person being thrown into the middle of something truly awful and he reacts as any normal person would. David Ayer has certainly outdone himself here, proving that he’s a directorial force to be reckoned with. His camera angles and long shots are hauntingly wonderful and he puts you right where you need to be, never letting up for a second. He shows you everything that you’d normally see during battle and doesn’t spare you any of the abominations of war.