Telling the story of a U.S military unit operating an M4A3E8 Sherman tank and their experiences in Germany during the last month of the Second World War, Fury is a polished and visually impressive addition to the WW2 genre. Staring Brad Pitt, Shia LaBeouf, Logan Lerman, Jon Bernthal and Michael Peña, the film focuses on the dynamics between the crew and the obstacles they face as they journey across the country. Not particularly motivated by cause and effect narration, the film’s story relies less on a tight plot and instead works as a kind of episodic tale, that culminates in a frankly thrilling climactic battle between the 5 men and a 300 plus infantry of Germans when their tank has been immobilized.
All 5 members of the central cast give fine performances. But special mention must go to Shia LaBeouf, who proves here that he is capable of more than just shouting “Optimus!” over and over again and acting like a crazy hermit man in his spare time, and also to Logan Lerman (aka Percy Jackson) who forms the heart of the film. The latter’s emotional trajectory is both layered and believable thanks to the 22 year old’s conviction to underplay emotions in moments where the temptation to go into full on melodramatic- “look at me I’m acting!”-mode could have been too great. Of course Brad Pitt gives a dependably good performance too and the same can also be said for Bernthal and Peña. Regrettably these terrific performances are weighed down ever so slightly by some deficiencies in the material. Bernthal in particular is saddled with a character who suffers from being defined by exclusively one trait (he’s a bit of an arse) until he has a spontaneous change of heart late in the game that feels a little too disingenuous for a film focused so closely on it’s characters’ development.
The writing is generally speaking quite strong, if a bit heavy handed every now and then. One prolonged dinner scene may test some viewers’ patience when it brings the film to a halt midway through, but it is a terrific scene on its own merit thanks to sharp dialogue and intense character interactions. Discussions about faith and mortality scattered throughout add some weight and heft too, although occasionally feel somewhat forced.
But it’s in the battle scenes where Fury really hits its stride. Bringing an extreme brutality and disconcerting tangibility to the horrors of war, the film pays close attention to details others overlook (the use of tracer round ammunition is a nice touch). The haunting cinematography and intense use of sound really manage to make the film stand out of the crowd too. On a similar note, the film wisely avoids the Saving Private Ryan shaky cam, jumpity frame rate, aesthetic that has been beyond done to death by now, so feels refreshing in that regard as well.
Perhaps it isn’t quite as important as it wants to be, but Fury is very well constructed and dramatically satisfying. It even manages to make Shia LaBeouf seem like a convincing human being again, a true cinematic achievement.
Fury (2014), directed by David Ayer, is distributed in UK cinemas by Sony Pictures Entertainment, Certificate 15.