After an initial text introduction setting the scene for Fury, the film opens with a beautiful shot of a lone rider on horseback, finding his way through the debris of the battlefield, this is a lone knight… except it’s not. A figure skulks out of the shadows, topples the man off the horse and brutally kills him, this is in fact one of the protagonists of the piece.
This opening perfectly sets up the film, the people who we are about to follow through this story are absolutely anti-heroes and Director David Ayer makes no bones about it.
There are many different types of war films, some focus on the chaos and brutality of it, along with the camaraderie of soldiers, such as Saving Private Ryan, some deal with the more uncomfortable nature of it like Platoon and some even explore the sheer boredom of it all, like Jarhead. Fury delves down the route of how visceral and nasty war can be, while also exploring the bond it forges between men.
The story follows a tank crew as they fight their way through the last days of World War 2, in which the Germans are all but defeated and are throwing everything they have left at the Allies. Unfortunately one of the tank gunners has been killed and so the army have sent a replacement in the form of a young man named Norman.
The tank crew are initially extremely hostile toward Norman and do not warm to him, he is a complete rookie and has found himself in very unfamiliar territory. The crew then make Norman clean the inside of the tank and the corpse within it, its fair to say there isn’t much left and the previous occupant has kindly left his entrails painted on the inside of the tank. A very family friendly introduction I am sure you will all agree!
Following off from Norman’s introduction we experience our first battle sequence involving the crew. The tanks lumber over the battlefield with various ammunition ricocheting off them, Along with our crew holed up inside its claustrophobic interior. Ayer directs these scenes really well, he gets the intensity of the battle sequences correct along with the gritty uncompromising violence. Fortunately, for the most part these scenes are also well edited, they don’t drag on (apart from a slightly long finale) and they feel relatively grounded in reality.
What I always appreciate in film is when Directors choose to go with practical effects over CGI. The production design by Andrew Menzies on this film is great and they actually used real tanks while shooting and you can really tell, they look fantastic in both close up and wide shots, especially when you can see people walking alongside them.
David Ayer is the Director behind all this and he is doing fine work here, his Direction is extremely competent and obviously understands what he wants his film to be about. He created a strong bond between his main cast members by having them fight and insult one another during filming, along with undergoing rigorous training exercises. This really shows in the finished product as all the cast have great chemistry with one another and have clearly spent a lot of time prepping for their respective roles.
Ayer has made some really good films in his time and also some pretty poor ones, I think this is possibly his best, it has a consistent tone, really strong actors and exciting battle sequences. I only have a couple of criticisms for Ayer when it comes to this film, the first being his representation of female characters. I won’t delve too deeply into spoilers here but there is a long, arguably drawn-out scene in which the men encounter a young German girl and her mother. I think Ayer intended this to be some sort of emotional centrepiece to the film but instead it just comes across as a little backward with its gender politics and a somewhat Tarantinoesque tense, uncomfortable dinner table sequence. The difference being Tarantino deals with exploitation film, Ayer is making a rather serious war film. My second, less harsh criticism is the films philosophical underpinning. Ayer is the sole writer for this and for the most part its actually pretty good, he gives his characters lines such as “Ideals are peaceful, history is violent” and “Wait until you see it… What a man can do to another man” the cast sell the dialogue really well, its just the film isn’t quite as deep as it wants to be unfortunately.
So Ayers Direction and writing is proficient for the most part, how about this cast then eh? The film is certainly an ensemble piece and Ayer has got the perfect actors for the roles, these guys immerse themselves into the film.
First up we have Brad Pitt playing Don ‘Wardaddy’ Collier. When filming commenced Pitt stood at 50 years old which is actually a lot older than a lot of Non-commissioned officers that took part in the second world war. Pitts age here, while not historically representative really adds to his character, he is a grizzled and aggressive veteran. Don shows no mercy toward his enemies and has an unclear, dark past (That’s actually explained in a deleted scene on the Blu-ray). Pitt is carrying a somewhat exaggerated accent and a haircut that only a handsome man such as himself could pull off, he is very seasoned here and this role really suits him. Pitt also serves as an executive producer on the film and I must say his credits as a producer are becoming more and more impressive.
Playing the tank crews resident Holy man we have Shia LaBeouf as Boyd ‘Bible’ Swan. I think it’s really easy to hate on LaBeouf, his younger self starred in the abysmal Tranformers movies and when he tried to make the transition to serious artist, it didn’t pan out particularly well (see bag on head incident). Reports during filming suggest that LaBeouf went to extreme lengths for his character; pulling out his own tooth, not showering, actually cutting his own face to apply a scar to his character and even becoming a Christian. The cast and crew also (apparently) became upset by his antics, obviously some of these stories could be exaggerated but I wouldn’t put it past him. LaBeoufs performance in the film is actually really great you believe his character as a man of god and he seems so stalwart, especially during his scene in the tank when he recites his bible verse exclaiming “Here I am, send me”.
Logan Lerman is the fresh faced new recruit to the crew and plays Norman Ellison. Lerman is the most inexperienced actor out of the main cast but he’s quite likeable here. His initial reactions to the horror of war are strong and he provides a nice periscope for the audiences viewpoint in the film.
Michael Pena plays Trini ‘Gordo’ Garcia. Pena has collaborated with Ayer before and they clearly have a strong working relationship. Pena is a really underappreciated actor, he can really deliver when it comes to drama or comedy and is a fantastic character actor. In one scene as the tank crew roles past a beautiful young girl Norman stares at her, seeing a small piece of beauty in a completely obliterated landscape, leading to a small touching moment, then Gordo interjects with “She’ll let you fuck her for a chocolate bar”. His comedic timing is always spot on.
Jon Bernthal is the final member of the tank crew playing Grady ‘Coon-Ass’ Travis. Bernthal is a tremendously talented actor, he usually appears in supporting roles but he is infinitely watchable. Bernthal, along with Andrew Lincoln completely carried the second season of The Walking Dead for me. His broad voice and lumbering physique add an intimidating presence to his character and I really like his line delivery during one of the shelling sequences when he says “This is war, can you feel it!?!”.
I own some of the soundtrack for the film and I must say it is a very good score, Steven Price has created a sweeping, emotional score that fits the tone of the film, my favourite track from it is “Norman”.
Roman Vasyanov is the Director Of Photography on the film and this is some visually appealing work. The composition is very muddy and dirty, there are a lot of classic war colours, your green and browns and his framing is really nice, capturing the emotions of the scenes and getting some vast shots of the tank companies rolling over the German terrain. They decided to choose film over digital for Fury and it’s a welcome addition, as Ayer states “film is magic”. They also used anamorphic lenses which is an older format of lense and adds a nicer colour palette to the film.
Jay Cassidy and Dody Dorn are the editors on the film, the film itself (excluding credits) lasts two hours and six minutes, this is a film aiming for awards season. While it did not win any major awards the runtime is certainly suitable and as I previously said, the biggest criticism is the length of the climactic action sequence, which should’ve either been changed or edited in length.
Upon Further Examination:
- Xavier Samuel plays Lieutenant Parker and I swear his small character role in it MUST be a reference to Gorman from Aliens, even down to the costume!
- I guess I wouldn’t be a true British film fan without saying “Hello to Jason Isaacs!”
- Scott Eastwood spot! I exclaim this because Scott Eastwood also had a tiny role in Ayers Suicide Squad, I’d keep Fury on the ol’ C.V. buddy but maybe not Suicide Squad.
- David Ayer also made Sabotage where the characters have nicknames, in that film it came across as silly, here it is implemented a lot better.
Fury is a film that manages to achieve what it sets out to do, to show that the battlefield of war is a nasty business and you have to get your hands dirty when you’re involved with it. Unfortunately the film doesn’t do much more than that and when it tries to extend its reach, it becomes a little uneven. This is clearly Ayers film as it has his fingerprints all over it and he deserves credit where it is due, the film isn’t too patriotic and you do end up caring for the characters when the bullets start flying. I think this is quite an accessible and entertaining war film that most audiences will enjoy as long as you can stomach some of the violence.
I own a Blu-ray of the film that comes with a wealth of extras, with Directors combat journals and documentaries on the cast bonding to get into character. There are also some deleted and extended scenes included which is always nice, there’s even an extended chocolate bar scene/gag. The Blu-ray also includes a booklet which details the entire production of the film, I wish more Blu-ray releases did this, it adds a nice collectible and makes it seem like the filmmakers cared about the home release.
You can get a steelbook of the film but you can only purchase it through independent sellers and it is very expensive. The standard Blu-ray edition is really cheap off Amazon and well worth picking up if you’ve got a Friday night spare: