Director: David Ayer
Cast: Brad Pitt, Logan Lerman, Shia LaBeouf, Jon Bernthal
Watch Fury online in the UK: iTunes / Prime Video (Buy/Rent) / TalkTalk TV / Rakuten TV / Google Play
“Ideals are peaceful. History is violent.”
War is hell. It’s something that bears retelling to each generation, but it doesn’t excuse a war movie from repeating the same old, tired habits. Fury, though, is far from tired. It’s awake and positively buzzing.
Director David Ayer gets down to business straight away, barely pausing for exposition before stabbing someone in the eye. The year is 1945. Hitler is desperate. And the Americans in tanks driving through German countryside? They’re screwed.
We quickly fall in with the crew manning Fury: Bible-quoting Boyd (LaBeouf), gun-toting Coon-Ass (Bernthal), driver Gordo (Pena) and their leader, Wardaddy (Pitt). But their names are as irrelevant as the context: history is violent, so they are too. The one exception? Norman (Lerman), a fresh-faced clerk shipped to the front to fill the spot vacated by the team’s late assistant driver.
Norman’s introduction is our window onto the war; literally, at times, as we frequently look out of his hatch at the ongoing carnage. That claustrophobic sense of location gets right under your skin, thanks to Ayer’s direction, which keeps the cameras inside the belly of the Sherman tank as much as possible. As a result, it’s impossible not to feel some attachment to the boys on patrol, despite us (like Norman) knowing barely anything about them. Once again, brevity is the aim: Gordo’s conflicted feelings are summed up by the look on Michael Pena’s face; Pitt’s fatherly sergeant does his best to break the boy in; while an impressively understated Shia LaBeouf carries the weight of war on his shoulders with the shrug of a cigarette.
Bernthal sticks out somewhat, thanks to his overtly aggressive performance – weapons man Coon-ass is the most visibly affected by the battle – but the bond between the unit is what matters; the ensemble genuinely feel like a family, albeit one fuelled by aggression as much as affection. One standout scene halfway through sees that tie contrasted with that of a real German family; a juxtaposition that takes place around a bizarrely pristine dinner table.
Amid the stern veterans, Logan’s naive junior brings a heavy dose of fright to the mix. The result is a cocktail of adrenaline, repeatedly shaken up in that metal container: Fury distilled from a potent blend of anger and fear. David Ayer’s script casts aside the politics and history lessons: here, there is no good or bad, no sympathy or hate, no English or German. Just killing, by knife, shell or machine gun. Or, if necessary, by running over. Heroes are pushed to horrific extremes, enemies display unexpected acts of kindness. The only difference between them? Who shoots first.
That combination of confined location and stripped-down combat gives each bloody set piece the kind of nerve-jangling tension that made Saving Private Ryan’s opening so shocking. This is war on rails – and it thrives on capturing the intense rush of survival. The film lasts more than two hours, but feels like 30 minutes. Thrilling and terrifying in equal measure, Fury retells the violence of history for a generation where peace remains an ideal.