IN CINEMAS NOW
RUNNING TIME: 134 min
REVIEWED BY: Dr Lenera, Official HCF Critic
It’s April 1945 and the last month of the ‘European Theatre’ of World War II. As the Allies make their final push into Nazi Germany, a battle-hardened U.S. Army Staff Sergeant in the 66th Armoured Regiment, 2nd Armored Division named Don “Wardaddy” Collier commands an M4A3E8 Sherman tank named Fury and its five-man, all-veteran crew: gunner Boyd “Bible” Swan; loader Grady “Coon-Ass” Travis; and driver Trini “Gordo” Garcia. The tank’s original assistant driver/bow gunner has been killed in battle and his replacement turns out to be a recently-enlisted Army typist, Norman Ellison who has never even seen the inside of a tank before, let alone experienced the ravages of war….
Fury’s opening which has Don, one of its major characters, jumping onto a German officer calmly riding a horse through the aftermath of a battle and bashing his face in with a rock, tells you that it’s going to be a warts-and-all war movie which won’t pull any punches, and it’s littered with sometimes striking and disturbing imagery which shows the futility and horror of armed conflict, from an old woman cutting open a dead horse to eat, to a woman in a wedding dress among a crowd of refugees, to tanks crushing bodies like mincemeat. It’s been compared to Saving Private Ryan, and does feature some similar characters, but it plays more like a combination of that film’s TV cousin Band Of Brothers and Platoon but with its chief protagonists spending most of their time in a tank. Despite what you may have read, there’s lots of vicious, visceral action, more skirmishes rather than battles but impressive nonetheless, with a thrilling tank duel and a climax which is real edge-of-seat stuff and is impressively bathed in yellow in a film which, despite featuring much of the usual familiar desaturated look, is expertly photographed by Roman Vasyanov and superbly directed by David Ayer, who thankfully avoids ‘shakycam’ and over-editing so you can see and enjoy the action, though enjoy may seem like a strange word to use when describing a film which really hammers home the dehumanising effect of war.
Ayer’s script is slightly less successful, meaning that his film has the odd uneasy scene, such as a very unconvincing, not to mention slightly offensive, sequence in a German house which seems to condone consentual rape, but it’s often very strong on characterisation, especially with regard to Brad Pitt’s Don, a complex guy who seems very unpleasant at the beginning, forcing his new recruit Norman to shoot a prisoner in what is one of the most intense scenes in a while, but whom you develop an understanding of soon after, and even Logan Lerman and, hard to believe I know, Shia Labeouf, give good performances. There’s been criticisms of supposed gung-ho heroism jarring with the overall ‘war is hell’ approach, though I was rather moved towards the end, and such stuff goes on in war anyway, while the film is admirably unbiased and its overall message seems to be that war can bring out the worst in people, but that, every now and again, it can bring out the best too. With a strong score by Steven Price that is allowed to be unusually emotive for these days while still having a modern feel, Fury just misses being one of the great war films, but it’s still a very good one, and the box office success of another film that hasn’t felt the need to tone things down to get that seemingly all-important PG-13/12A rating can only be a good thing.