“Ideals are peaceful. History is violent.” Brad Pitt’s Don “Wardaddy” Collier deliver’s Fury’s movie poster quote with the air of exhaustion one can only imagine comes from years of fighting in the Second World War. And exhausting is the word that sums up the experience of watching Fury, written and directed by David Ayer.
War is hell, and this is something those of us fortunate never to have experienced have learned thanks to countless movies. War films have been around as long as film itself, and Fury can confidently add itself to the list of classics of the genre.
Fury takes place during the last month of the European Theatre of the war, when the US Army is on its last legs. Wardaddy leads the Sherman tank Fury from which the film takes its name, his crew including Shia LaBeouf, Jon Bernthal, Michael Peña and new recruit Logan Lerman.
Covering a 24-hour period in Germany when the allies met the most fanatical of Nazi resistance, Fury is a terrifying assault on the nerves that plunges the audience right into the middle of the action. Not since Saving Private Ryan has a war film ever made an audience so thankful to be sitting comfortably in a cinema and not entrenched in the mud and the horror of World War Two.
Ayer’s washed-out visuals depict an army that is bedraggled, beaten, bloody and shattered. These men have seen the worst humanity has to deliver, and they know it. One moment Wardaddy is shooting an unarmed German soldier in the back, the next he’s berating his men for their inappropriate behaviour in someone else’s home. This is a complicated man in a lawless land. The soldiers act atrociously, but never are they terrible people – they are the victims of circumstance swimming in the dregs of society at the end of the world.
It is the darkest time in modern history and never is the film afraid to remind us. Corpses are bulldozed into mass graves. Heads burst with chilling ease. Men burn alive, and the passivity with which this is regarded by the soldiers is gut-wrenching. Lerman plays the rookie, our relatable connection to this world, but even his view is greyed and jaded by the end of the film. Fury by no means pulls its punches.
Best experienced in the cinema, there’s nothing quite like the terrifying metallic shrieking of a missile glancing off the hull of a tank or the thumping bass of a heavy machine gun. The claustrophobic firefights are fist-clenching stuff, and a showdown with a German Tiger tank stands out as one of the most tense sequences in recent memory.
Expertly crafted, if nothing else Fury is a masterclass in technical filmmaking. But with a strong script and powerful performances from the entire cast, it elevates itself well above a passable action film. Although the final scenes transcend to a Hollywood-style Western showdown – the realism of which is easy to dispute – the film gets away with it after an hour and a half of solid storytelling that throws back to they heyday of the genre.