Writer/director David Ayer‘s latest film Fury is a bleak WWII drama with a stacked cast, beefy running time, lots of gruesome violence and is primary set inside of an American tank. Fury isn’t quite the next Saving Private Ryan, but it is an interesting turn for the filmmaker, allowing Ayer to tackle his usual dark and depressing subject matter through a slightly different lens, mostly thanks to his ranging cast and unique against-all-odds story. Fury slows down for pit stops more than it should, but still crosses the finish line as a fine war film offering up a different look at World War II.
Fury follows a group of brave men assigned to a Sherman tank and tasked with a deadly and rather risky mission, behind enemy lines and with minimal support. Every single man is tested both as a group and individually, as the harsh realities of WWII hit them head-on, when the men stare death in the face as they take on a large portion of Nazi’s in Germany.
David Ayer really challenges himself as a director with Fury, stepping outside his usual gritty and corrupt cop drama circle for a war movie that’s just as gritty and corrupt, but also full of bravery and heroism. Fury may not be hope-filled or morally positive, but it definitely shows us a side of Ayer that we haven’t been exposed to all that much. And that’s mostly a good thing, because Ayer shines as a gritty filmmaker that tends to show us the uglier sides of life whenever possible.
Fury is definitely an ugly film, soaked in a messy concoction of blood and mud and occasionally sprinkled with tears. Emotions are at an all-time high for most of the crew during the film’s bulky and bumpy running time, which contributes to one of the film’s main problems — it’s just so damn slow.
It’s not that the film is boring or painful to watch, but it does move like a tank that’s running out of fuel, pit stopping too often and sabotaging its own momentum along the way.
This creates a war drama that’s full of blood, guts and tears, but also lots and lots of odd downtime that is usually filled with random cruelty towards the newest member of the team, played by Logan Lerman with a performance that almost outshines the rest of the one-dimensional crew.
Brad Pitt leads the all-star team, which also features a bearded (and overly religious) Shia LaBeouf, a casual Michael Pena and The Walking Dead‘s very own Jon Bernthal. Each man has his own “thing” that he brings to the team, but they’re all almost the same, outside of Pitt and Lerman’s turns as the film’s only conscious. Pitt isn’t playing a trademark Pitt character, like seen in Inglorious Basterds, but he does capture the brutal intensity and constant on-your-feet and ready for war trait that some war films lack.
But most of this work makes way for very little reward, because Ayer’s script focuses less on the actual characters in the tank and more on what they do with the tank. It’s confusing and off-putting, because the film isn’t exactly action-packed, yet its weight is rarely felt, because most of the dialogue-heavy moments feel repetitive and like the characters are reaching down and digging for something that’s just too deep for them to grab.
There’s not really any real character arcs to be found and most of the film plays out like your standard war film, but only this time it’s mostly seen from the inside of a tank, which is cool from a technical standpoint and probably very eye-opening for war buffs, but not all that satisfying for those looking for something full-formed.
Fury isn’t all bad though. As I said earlier, both Lerman and Pitt give good performances, while LaBeouf gives one of the weirdest and misdirected performances of his odd career yet. Bernthal and Pena mostly stick to what they know and what they know has more than gotten them by.
The real gem is writer/director David Ayer. He steps out of his comfort zone and the result is a decent war film that never quite reaches great levels, but barely sinks down into anything lower. He’s definitely made better (Street Kings, Harsh Times), but he’s also made much worse (this year’s Sabotage). I’m glad that he tried something different, but I’m also disappointed by the end product’s overall feeling of mediocrity. Ayer has never been the most groundbreaking filmmaker, but all of his films usually contain such a raw level of grit and realism that comes full circle by the end. Fury doesn’t exactly do that, but it also doesn’t feature a band of complete assholes and instead a group of troubled men simply trying to survive a war and do their country proud in the process.
Fury – 7/10