Brad Pitt stars as a war-weary tank commander in a gruesome Second World War movie that is unflinching in its visceral battle scenes.
Band Of Brothers by Alexa Dalby
In the last days of the Second World War, a weary US tank crew is behind enemy lines in Germany. The US is an underdog for once, its Sherman tanks outnumbered and outgunned by superior German tanks, desperate in the last throes of defeat. The film opens in a deserted battlefield wasteland. A lone German rider on a white horse is jumped on and killed by a US soldier from the top of an apparently abandoned tank. It’s Brad Pitt, who is excellent as tough yet privately tortured Sergeant Don Collier, whose ‘war name’ is Wardaddy, the battle-hardened commander of the tank nicknamed ‘Fury’. He has promised his motley crew that he will make sure they survive to the end of the war. There’s religious Bible (Shia LaBeouf, Nymphomaniac), quoting biblical justifications for America’s war being righteous, Mexican Gordo, the driver, (Michael Peña, American Hustle) and animal-like Coon-Ass (Jon Bernthal, The Wolf of Wall Street) – all of them filthy and brutalised by war, yet kept together by a fierce sense of cameraderie under fire in the enclosed world of their tank.
But Wardaddy hasn’t succeeded. One of his crew has been killed and is replaced by raw recruit Norman (fresh-faced Logan Lerman, The Perks of Being a Wallflower), only in the army eight weeks, trained as a clerk/typist, and never been in a tank before. His first task is to clean up the splattered brains of his predecessor from the inside of the tank. Unsurprisingly, he vomits. Unless Wardaddy can toughen him up fast, he’s a liability to the rest of them. So in his first encounter with the enemy, Wardaddy makes him shoot a captured and surrendering German soldier. We see the war and Wardaddy through his eyes.
Fury is unsparing in its blood and mud. The effects of battle on human beings are graphic – limbs are bloodily shattered and there’s an ultra-high body count on both sides – “a whole lotta people gotta die”, Wardaddy says, before this war’s over. The movie’s three battle sequences are impressively choreographed, massive, stunning and noisy. Tanks lumber around each other like pachyderms, spitting lasered bullet tracks like fireworks. Between the encounters is a bizarre interlude when the US capture a German town. Seemingly seeking some kind of normality, Wardaddy bursts in with Norman to the apartment of two terrified German women, where he tries to recreate an incongruously domestic scene in which they sit down to eat together around a dining table, and he encourages Norman in an almost fatherly way lose his virginity. Fury culminates in a prolonged final showdown where the tank is stranded and alone, its five men defending a vital crossroads against an SS battalion of hundreds, in a fight to the death in a landscape lit in murky browns like the Apocalypse.
Pitt is excellent as Wardaddy, the dedicated tank commander, who inspires loyalty and self-sacrifice. War, for him, is “the best job I ever had”. But he seems larger than life and the other characters are one-dimensional. The film is scripted and directed by David Ayers, responsible for such gritty movies as Training Day and End of Watch. Fury was intended respectfully, its director says, to show the futility of war, the universality of the experience of soldiers on both sides and the ambiguity of heroism. But although its battle details are explicit, overall Fury says nothing very new, its ambitions to be more than an action movie seem pretentious and, despite its technical prowess, it has the feeling of a rather old-fashioned war film.
Fury is released on 24th October 2014 in the UK