A rookie soldier’s struggle to accept the realities of war will leave the audience with some stark questions to consider.
It’s April 1945 and a man is riding a horse casually across the remnants of a battle field. Small fires are still pouring smoke as he casually picks his path across the battered turf, when suddenly a figure leaps from a trashed tank. The man is knocked to the ground and viciously stabbed through the eye – this is the opening scene in Fury and the audience’s introduction to Brad Pitt’s character Don 'Wardaddy' Collier. He’s just killed a German SS officer but lets his horse go free, with the theme of morality looming large over the film.
Obviously this role is going to draw comparisons with Pitt’s other WWII movie Inglourious Basterds, and there are certainly some similarities but the story is what sets this apart. This isn’t a tale which has been buffed up to show the palatable side of war, in fact the opposite is true. The audience feels every bump of Wardaddy’s tank, called Fury, as it travels across ground and every thump and shudder as it’s battered by enemy fire. Here viewers are offered a brief snapshot of what those men went through and how they coped with death and killing.
So while Wardaddy might be engaged in the same goal as Pitt’s Inglourious Basterds character Lt. Aldo Raine, he is darker, sadder and wearier. He is the sergeant of a tank with four crew members, Boyd 'Bible' Swan (Shia LaBeouf giving one of the standout performances), Trini 'Gordo' Garcia (Michael Peña), Grady 'Coon-Ass' Travis (Jon Bernthal) and rookie soldier Norman Ellison (Logan Lerman) – who’s so new to the squad he doesn’t have a nickname yet. The group are part of the Allies’ push toward Berlin, with Wardaddy determined to keep his crew safe even as they lurch from battle to battle.
This is really Norman’s story. He arrives to take over from a recently-deceased member of Fury’s squad even though he’s a trained typist, not a soldier. It’s hard to watch his increasing horror and panic as he realises what is required of him, especially with his team’s relaxed attitude towards death. The audience can’t help feeling that this is what it must have been like for so many men at that time.
But this is a war movie, so huge gunfights are a must. We get those aplenty complete with limbs flying off and people set alight. At times hard to watch, it’s nonetheless fascinating to see the men’s camaraderie as they’re encased in the claustrophobic tank and this becomes as much a tale of their bond as it is about the war. That director David Ayer can even infuse a scene where Wardaddy and Norman take time out after liberating a town with such agonising tension proves he is most interested in what war does to a man. Something the viewer is left considering for a long time after the credits have rolled.
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