It’s easy to think of Brad Pitt as your average A-list movie star. I have always been on the Pitt train as he continually produces and stars in exceptional films. Many of them recently have gone on toward Best Picture nominations like 12 Years a Slave, Moneyball, The Tree of Life, Inglourious Basterds to name a few. I have a feeling Fury will be another hit for him. He plays Wardaddy, a forceful and dutiful American soldier that leads a team of four other men in a Sherman tank as they cover German fields hoping to kill off the remaining Nazis. They have aptly named their tank “Fury”. The American tanks were outnumbered and lacking in technology compared to the Nazis. His crew returns to home base when one of his men is brutally killed. His body parts are still splattered inside the tank. Their replacement, Norman (Lerman), is a rookie with no gun or ammunition training. He was previously trained as a typist and has serious reservations about taking the life of another man, even if he is one of the Nazis. Norman joins Wardaddy, Bible (LaBeouf) Coon-Ass (Bernthal), and Gordo (Peña) as they are thrust into enemy territory. Their first battle is eye-opening for Norman, and it becomes even more apparent to Wardaddy that the new rookie cannot shoot a gun. He has no time for rookies knowing quite well that their odds of survival are slim to none.
If you have ever seen a David Ayer movie, you know his heightened in-your-face style. He wrote Training Day and directed End of Watch and Sabotage. I have a love/hate relationship with his films. End of Watch was one of most intense, gut wrenching films I have seen about what members of our police squad go through. It is one of the most profane films ever released and has two fine performances from Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Peña. On the other hand, I thought Sabotage was an atrocious mess that has a place on my worst films of 2014 list. He wrote and directed Fury with the same fervor we have come to expect from him. His script is limiting when it comes to any sort of backstory or thorough plot. We are thrown into the action when Norman joins the team without any acknowledgement of how the other characters got there, where they are coming from, and what they left behind. The story only takes place in the limited timeframe the movie takes place in. Like I mentioned previously, we only get a brief acknowledgment of Norman’s past as he is the new member of the troop and severely out of his element. The lack of a thorough plot may throw off moviegoers if they need that to stay involved in a movie.
Ayer seems to be more concerned with the brutality and brotherhood behind what our soldiers went through when they risked the lives to save our country. If you saw last year’s Lone Survivor, you can get an idea for the tone and essence of Fury. The cinematography of Roman Vasyanov keeps us tight inside the claustrophobic tank and captures that eye level view of being in the line of duty. Ayer does not shy away from the blood, carnage, and muddy filth that our soldiers experienced. He quite frequently will show a head being blown off or a limb being ripped off someone’s body. It all happens so fast and without warning that the shock value really sets in. No one seems out of harm’s way and, like the war itself, it all happens when you least expect it.
The strong bond of brotherhood rings true with the this ensemble of actors including stand-out Logan Lerman (The Perks of Being a Wallflower), Shia LaBeouf, Michael Peña (End of Watch), and Jon Bernthal (Grudge Match). Each give fully realized and dimensional performances for characters we know little about. It is very evident that the war has already had a deep psychological effect on them, especially for Bernthal’s character. They are all led by Brad Pitt who brings a stoic exterior to Wardaddy when it comes to the fact that these men are killing machines. That is their job and he will see to it that any emotion is taken out of it. To contrast that aspect of his character, Pitt slowly shows off his paternal side to his troop and starts to open up to Lerman’s rookie.
If you live in Minnesota, you will be happy to know we have a connection to the film. George Smilanich from Hibbing was a WWII tank soldier that became a consultant on the film. He had never heard of Brad Pitt before he received a phone call from the actor. They finally met, and George spent hours talking to him and some of the other actors giving them a firsthand account of what happened to him and his fellow soldiers.
There is no denying that Fury is a well-made movie. Is it the best war movie in recent years? No. I think Lone Survivor was more successful with similar themes. I didn’t have the same kick in the gut emotional response for Fury like I did for Lone Survivor. Even though Ayer has a blunt way of making the battles as realistic as possible, there is something cocky and forceful in his attempt. I want the action scenes to feel realistic, but I don’t want to feel like Ayer is trying so hard at proving his point.
Is It Worth Your Trip to the Movies? You have to be in the right mood for it, but Brad Pitt certainly delivers another heavy hitter.
RATING: 4 out of 5 TICKET STUBS