Ever since graphic violence became acceptable in Hollywood films, the industry has had a thing for making scenes appear as stylized as possible. Some filmmakers such as Quentin Tarantino incorporate stylized violence as a part of their aesthetic, but it also seems to be the standard amongst most others. However, when it comes to war movies, all violence depicted must be grisly and ugly to properly reflect the horrors of combat. With a title like “Fury,” it was very clear that director David Ayer meant to do exactly that, and then some. However, the execution is not always as effective as it should be.
“Fury” begins in April 1945, as the Second World War is nearing its end. Hitler has made a declaration of total war, militarizing every man, woman and child in the country, but it seems to not really change the day-to-day lives of American soldiers. Every day is as gray and grim as the last, and everyone has become accustomed to the sounds of suffering, but that’s not to say the soldiers remain unfazed. As viewers, these are familiar images, and this is where the film’s main problem begins.
The film focuses on a single platoon of five soldiers operating a tank called ‘Fury’ which has become their home throughout the war. The two focal points of the group are ‘Wardaddy’ Collier and Norman Ellison, played by Brad Pitt and Logan Lerman, respectively. Wardaddy is a battle-hardened sergeant whose seething hatred for the enemy hides a more sensible side. On the other hand, Ellison is an army desk clerk unexpectedly thrown into war when the Fury platoon loses a man. Right away, we see a strong dichotomy between the two characters, but the film struggles to clearly define the perspective through which we are meant to see these horrific events.
The film makes every attempt to show the viewer the perspective of those who have been in the war for an extended period of time, normalizing gritty images of soldiers losing their limbs and dolly shots of medical tents punctuated by screams of searing pain. None of this seems any different to anyone who has seen at least one war movie in their lives, but early on, we are led to believe that we are meant to take the perspective of Wardaddy, who has had no choice but to immerse himself in this environment. However, with the introduction of Private Ellison and throughout the course of the film, we are led to believe that we are meant to adopt his perspective as his character develops. The film’s greatest irony, however, is that it recognizes the audience’s familiarity with war films, yet still attempts to tell the story through Ellison’s eyes. Even then, there are a few scenes in which Wardaddy is the center of attention for this group of five. Besides some issues concerning pacing, the biggest problem with “Fury” is its storytelling; the story for a film with a two-hour plus runtime should be stronger.
None of this, however, blunts the impact of the brutal warfare that rocks this film’s sound waves like the most violent, polyrhythmic percussion from any chaotic, hardcore-punk outfit. Countless bodies fall with rapid-fire editing amidst a hail of bullets and blasts from tanks. With all of this in mind, “Fury” proves that it is as hard-hitting as any high-caliber war film. As far as performances go, the film’s portrayals are pretty serviceable given the star power. I remember reading a critique of Brad Pitt’s Wardaddy comparing him to a watered-down Aldo Raine, and while there might be some disheartening truth to that statement, he does well enough for the lead role. Logan Lerman, Michael Peña and Shia LaBeouf give fine turns, but Jon Bernthal stands out as Grady. It’s easy to invest in their characters despite their one-dimensionality, which seems appropriate given the movie takes place near the end of the war, indicating that they’ve already gone through their own development.
All in all, “Fury” is a visceral war film that unfortunately settles for a little less than what it is intended to be. It seems like the sort of film that will get quite a few repeats with “Saving Private Ryan” and “Black Hawk Down,” whenever TNT feels like showing an all-day war film marathon on a Saturday. There’s nothing wrong with that given the company, but with the overarching goals it wants to complete, it should be better than just another film anyone will resign themselves to watching while aimlessly channel surfing.
Rating: 2.5 out of 4 stars