“I started this war killing Germans in Africa, now I’m killing Germans in Germany. Been with these fine gentleman for years,” says Sergeant Don ‘Wardaddy’ Collier (Brad Pitt) to his new replacement 2nd gunner Norman Ellison (Logan Lerman) in the last big push deep into Germany during the final days of WWII in the action film Fury.
It’s April 1945 and the Allies are making their final push in the European campaign to end the war. Germany refuses to surrender and have enlisted young boys and old men into its army, determined to fight to the last man. Army Sergeant Collier commands a Sherman tank and her five man crew, most of whom have been with him all the way back to 1943 during the fight in Africa. Collier promised his men a long time ago he would keep them alive, but when his 2nd gunner is killed, he’s given rookie soldier Ellison to replace him. Ellison has never seen the inside of a tank before and has actually never even seen any fighting since the war started. He’s reluctant to pick up a gun and aim it at anyone, and he has no idea what the demands will be as part of a tank crew. He’s a complete fish-out-of-water and the crew’s very obvious weak link.
Being one of the few tanks to have made it this deep into Germany, and all that’s left of the 3rd Platoon, Wardaddy and his men are given a deadly mission behind enemy lines. Finding themselves extremely out-numbered, out-gunned, and trying to get Ellison trained and ready to kill without hesitation as quickly as possible, Collier and his brave men attempt to slow down and kill as many Nazis soldiers as possible while struggling to survive.
Gritty and suspenseful, Fury is an unapologetic and realistic film that captures the brutality and horror of war and its affects on men. Writer/director David Ayers shows how these four men have lost almost all their decency and humanity to the point where only the primal instinct to stay alive and “do their job – killing Germans” remains.
Brad Pitt delivers one of his best performances as Sergeant Collier, a leader whose goal other than killing Germans is to do everything he can to keep his men alive. He’s a tough, battle-hardened soldier who has little patience with young Ellison who’s having a problem shooting the tank’s machine gun and in convincing himself killing another human being is morally okay. Pitt captures the hardness of the man but also the small bit of humanity that is still alive in him as well.
Logan Lerman is solid as rookie solider Ellison who was hoping to take dictation and type in the army and not have to fight and is thrown deep into the action with a tank outfit that’s already survived much longer than most tank outfits during the war. He shows wonderfully Ellison’s shock and sickness at all the death and killing around him.
Jon Bernthal is perfectly cast as Grady Travis, the tank’s ammunitions loader who is crass, rude, and vulgar, but who would take a bullet for his comrades if necessary. It’s his performance that captures best what war can do to a once decent ordinary man. Michael Pena is also solid as Trini ‘Gordo’ Garcia. Shia LaBeouf, sadly, seems miscast as Boyd ‘Bible’ Swan, the tank’s spiritual soldier who still believes in a higher power despite all the killing and death he’s witnessed and taken part in. He delivers an ineffective and stale performance which, unfortunately, detracts from the film.
The production, set design, and costumes are first-rate, bringing back to the big screen the authentic look and feel of war-torn Europe near the end of WWII. The battle scenes are both stirring and unrelenting, capturing the true horror of war and how unfeeling and ruthless a soldier needs to be to survive.
The one big problem with the film is in the middle when Collier and his men reach a German town and decide to treat themselves to a little rest and relaxation. It slows the pacing of the film to a crawl and goes on way too long, almost completely losing the underlying anxiety of never knowing when or where the enemy is going to attack.
Still, with strong performances led by Pitt as well as gripping battle scenes, Fury is an arresting war drama that shouldn’t be missed.
Fury is rated R for strong sequences of war violence, some grisly images, and language throughout.
– Reviewed by Kevin Finnerty
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