DIRECTOR: David Ayer
CAST: Brad Pitt, Shia LaBeouf, Logan Lerman, Michael Pena, Jon Bernthal
World War II’s final chapter told from the point of view of a tank. That’s the sum total of Fury. For, this is no film seeking to tell you about history — except to say Germans are all bad — or about war — except to say kill all those Nazis. Or even about the men who fought from the other side — as generic a bunch as you are likely to see in a war buddy team, with the Mexican (Pena) standing in for the customary minority and the conscientious rookie (Lerman) standing in for all of us/Pitt as he would have been before he became ‘Wardaddy’.
Within the confines of this narrow definition, and that small tank, Fury works reasonably okay. In the genre of “authentic” war films these days, that means not sparing us the dirt and grime of the battlefield, including in this case a blown-up face stuck to metal. However, the hulk of that enormous tank traversing muddy, squishy roads, looking as battle weary as its occupants, is both a sight to behold and to comprehend.
When the film does take a break from its episodic clashes, including one fascinating encounter with a superior German tank, Fury pauses for a while in a German home occupied by a scared woman and her terrified teenage cousin. Pitt’s Don and Lerman’s Norman enter the house first. As can be expected, however battle-hardened he may be, Don is only looking for a peaceful break here. Encouraged by him, Norman and the teenage cousin have a sweet, quiet sexual tryst, before the rest of Don’s team barges its way in. A scene that could have been about humanity in the midst of war, and the losing and gaining of it, quickly comes apart as Ayer stretches it beyond breaking point.
The same holds true for the film’s final scene, though it is supposed to be the tank’s heroic last stand against 300-odd SS soldiers. Unbelievable as that may be, one is willing to give the benefit of doubt as Ayer stages and films that encounter impressively, against a burning house and tracer guns. However, in his first ambitious directorial outing, Ayer can’t resist intermittently giving his heroes great lines and fancier exits, which only dilutes rather than add to the story.
Pitt is taking up from where he let off in Inglourious Basterds, without that film’s delicious touch of irony. While Lerman and Pena are ordinary, it is the red-neck Bernthal (as Grady) and particularly the Bible-spouting LaBoeuf (as Boyd) who steal the show. LaBoeuf is moving in the special, tender relationship Boyd shares with Don. His eyes say what the script and the scripture won’t let him.
But that’s another film, another war.