Fury (2014) Movie Review: Men At War

Language : English | Running Time :  134 Minutes | Director : David Ayer

What a real sad loss it is if Shia LaBeouf indeed doesn’t act anymore. One of the prominent thoughts that I held on to after watching David Ayer’s “Fury” is how tragic it actually is to lose an actor like Shia LaBeouf who makes a bible quoting World War 2 veteran so believable and his fears and faith so touching. The other thing that really struck me is how the post-Saving Private Ryan movies don’t hide the war wounds, the pulping of brains, the shells bursting and breaking skull, the actors bathed in mud, trying to cover ground in rain hit lands of Germany. Saving Private Ryan was certainly a landmark film in how war action got depicted.

Fury PosterIn David Ayer’s “Fury”, Brad Pitt returns to the business of killing Nazis. He has the same integrity and unending thirst to kill the Nazis as his Lt. Aldo Raine from “Inglorious Basterds” but he is more linear, more real and convincing, less gung-ho. Here, he commands a tank, Fury, a tank he calls his home. His nickname is Wardaddy and he is Sgt. Don Collier, a man who hates SS officers and kills them even after they surrender. The opening scene of Ayer’s “Fury” has an SS officer inspecting a battlefield on his beautiful white horse. There’s a smoke screen through which he struts along and before he knows it, he is killed with his eyes being stabbed out by Sgt. Don Collier who then proceeds to calm the white horse. The fury is not just the name of the tank he commands but his absolute mad disregard to the lives of SS officers.

Under Don’s command are Boyd “Bible” Swan(Shia LaBeouf),gunner, Grady “Coon-Ass” Travis(Jon Bernthal), the loader and Trini “Gordo” Garcia(Michael Pena), driver. The assistant driver has been killed and the new kid joining them has never before seen the insides of a tank. He is a typist, he didn’t enroll for tank duty. His name is Norman Ellison(Logan Lerman) and he is David Ayer’s first cliché. Because Norman is a boy, he has to be taught to be a man. And so we have the scene where he is forced to shoot an enemy, in cold blood, after he surrenders. It is a manning up session. Don Collier can’t afford to have a boy screw up his men’s lives. He needs a man to cover, to be the assistant driver. This is the cliché that Ayer doesn’t do away with but if not for this, there wouldn’t be the best 15 minute passage in the movie.

Ayer is brilliant with the war scenes. He has already proven to be an expert in action with both “Sabotage” and “End Of Watch”. In “Fury”, he picks up a grander scale to portray the action and he does it remarkably well, covering his men in mud, filling their surroundings with mortar, tanks and men being blown apart. He is good, he doesn’t overdo to justify the war. He livens the people in it. This is why it feels like “Fury” is a companion piece to “Patton” and “Saving Private Ryan”. It has the doggedness of war veterans working a strategic tank warfare and believing that when the time comes boys will become men and kill the Nazis. It follows Patton in that but in the way the war gets depicted and the people, especially Don Collier and Norman Ellison respond to it, there’s a remarkable likeness to Saving Private Ryan. Ayer’s “Fury” doesn’t bring a new dimension to the Second World War. It also doesn’t try to look at the opposition in any different manner than other American movies have but what it does do very well is sell the action convincingly. It ensures that Nazis, the SS officers can be hated unconditionally by depicting the hangings of children and women who refused to fight the war. It doesn’t become melodramatic; it makes it matter of fact.

Fury Poster 2“Fury” is a tale about the people in war, the men who are moving from one town to another, conquering, cleaning up civilization in their way and then searching for what they’ve cleared out. It is a tale about the men who are under duress. In Don Collier’s crew he has a Bible quoting gunman; a man who doesn’t hesitate to kill a Nazi but at the same time has a compassion and understanding beyond other men at the sight of a newbie. The war has hardened him but his religion still teaches him. The gentle moments that Don Collier and Boyd Swan share in the film is a great touch. “Coon-Ass” and “Gordo”are men for whom the tank is their home and the crew their brothers. There’s little else that they care about, there’s almost nothing else they have an affinity for. Norman is a boy who reads books and plays the piano. He still has the innocence that separates him from the veterans. He doesn’t have to become Don Collier, a man whose eyes are filled with tenderness and sadness at having seen a body too many and an exterior that strikes a hard bargain.

Ayer establishes an interlude between the action scenes, for about 15 minutes which happen to be the greatest passage of film in this movie. After capturing a town, Norman and Don enter into an apartment where live two women, Irma(Annamaria Marinca) and her younger cousin Emma(Alicia von Rittberg). The suspense that settles and rises as Don holds court inside the apartment is unnerving and gorgeous. There could be rape or death or life affirming goodness. We do not not know. Ayer builds that tension. When everyone of Don’s crew do assemble into the house, the tension multiplies and the men speak of what it has come down for them, the depravity of civilization, the distance they feel with the normal world and the pent up frustration, their needs and the jealousy. It is a moment of madness that Ayer perfects on screen. It is absolutely beautiful.

“Fury” may not be a great film but it certainly is a very interesting film about people in the war. It is right up there with some of the good war films and in Don Collier, it has a memorable hero. It covers a lot of ground, muddy and murky and it comes out looking like a battered piece deserving of medals.

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