Nobody does gritty action like David Ayer, the former US Navy submariner, writer of Training Day and director of the internationally acclaimed cop drama End of Watch. He is a serious man. Given his military background was based largely underwater it may have been more apt had he taken on the soon to be released Black Sea, a new film about submarine exploration starring Jude Law. Tanks, however, are much, much badder in the ass department, so Ayer opted to pen and shoot Fury instead.
Fury, the painted-on namesake of the titular Sherman, is the rambling metallic home of a WWII tank squadron based in Germany during the climatic conflicts of 1945. Led by Sgt. Don ‘Wardaddy’ Collier (Brad Pitt, brooding but still enjoying Nazi killin’), Fury’s tight-knit family have seen enough action to last a thousand lifetimes—starting out in Africa and ending up in the heart of the Reichland, they now find themselves out-manned, outgunned, and out of fucks to give. Their survival until this point has been a miracle, their brotherly bond now near unbreakable. As close as they may be—and being five alpha males living inside a cramped vehicle, they are very close indeed—there seems little hope for the future; tempers fray and punches fly as they roll ever closer to the barrage imposed by the technologically and numerically superior SS legions, Germany’s last line of defence.
Fury avoids over-sentimental American bravura (you wouldn’t see children hanging from telephone poles in The Monuments Men) and political analysis as would a tank crew steer clear of land mine; instead, it hones in on the unchangeable realities of war, and it spares nothing. As Brad Pitt’s physically and mentally scarred veteran informs conflicted newbie Norman Ellison (Logan Lerman), it is ‘his fucking job’ to kill every German soldier, just as it is their job to kill him; the war can’t end well, but the only way it will end is if “enough people die.” It may be cynical, but for men on the frontlines that was all they knew—they had to either accept their role or be destroyed by it.
David Ayer teamed up with End of Watch DOP Roman Vasyanov once again to film Fury, bringing a shocking intensity to the darkness of the battlefield. Their emulation of Stanley Kubrick’s First World War epic Paths of Glory is uncanny; the tank may have replaced the trench and close ups of Kirk Douglas have been swapped for those of Brad Pitt, but the theme of shattered innocence remains identical. Even more impressive, though, is the blinding power of machine gun fire and the ferocity of ricocheting tank shells. War is scary, and Fury shows you why. Steven Price’s (Gravity) mournful score carries the soaring pride of a Saving Private Ryan or Band of Brothers suite, but manages to remain much more grounded in the blood and guts of the tank’s mechanical workings.
After Brad Pitt, Shia LaBeouf is a surprising standout amongst the fierce male cast. His temperamental gunner possesses an astoundingly believable thousand-year stare, and if all the ballyhoo surrounding his ‘unusual’ method acting preparations (he allegedly pulled out a tooth and refused to wash on set) proves true, then it was worth it. Perhaps all the positive feedback LaBeouf is receiving for Fury will convince the not-famous actor to step into the limelight once more. Should you see Fury, get yourself to the front rows of the biggest screen you can find and welcome the boom-tacular immersion of tank warfare with open arms.