War is hell. The same point has been made by many movies over the decades. Whether it was Spielberg’s classic “Saving Private Ryan” or the less well-known Isao Takahata’s “Grave of the Fireflies.” However, usually the protagonists of these kinds of war stories are either infantry or civilians, those deemed vulnerable and out in the open. Rarely, if ever, does one find a story about a tank crew trying to survive in a combat environment, never mind World War II. Though one might think that the comparative safety that a tank’s cabin granted would make for a less thrilling war film, the way “Fury” tells its tale of camaraderie and survival is just as epic, just as intense, and just as fine a war film as any of the great war classics.
The most striking thing about “Fury” is its very brutal atmosphere. Everything is muddy, dirty, washed out, and faded. This Europe is not a land of heroic patriots fighting the good fight against tyranny, but rather a graveyard in which everyone – Axis or Allied – is waiting to see where their grave lies. Though there are mild moments of humor in the interactions between the soldiers manning the titular tank, but most of the memorable moments are of cruelty and brutality. Early in the story, a man is set on fire and chooses to shoot himself in the head than suffer any longer, a moment which sets the tone for the film. However, by far the most macabre spectacle in the movie is following the protagonist Norman Ellison, played by Logan Lerman, as he learns to dehumanize his foe and transforms from a frightened rookie afraid to shoot anyone to a cold professional who kills without hesitation.
The cast is stellar and pitch perfect. Brad Pitt plays the tank commander, affectionately called “Wardaddy”, and seems to call back to his days in “Inglorious Basterds” with his hatred of all things German. As can be expected from arguably the greatest actor in Hollywood today, he turns in the best performance of the film. That being said, there are no weak performances from the main cast, even from the much maligned Shia LaBeouf, who plays one of the most compelling roles as the tank’s technician and only devout religious man, providing at times a moral anchor for the film. The aforementioned Logan Lerman, though not the strongest of the cast, does well in conveying his complex internal struggles with a surprising degree of subtlety.
There is a lot to love about “Fury”, from it’s hard hitting story to it’s brutal atmosphere, to it’s breathtaking action sequences. Any lover of a good old-fashioned firefight, as well as lovers of vintage World War II weaponry, will adore the climactic tank duel that “Fury” has against a German Tiger I tank – which is the only real tank in the film and the last surviving German WWII tank in existence today – and the bonds forged between the crew mates of “Fury” will warm the heart of any moviegoer. Whether you are veteran of the box-office or an irregular fan, this film is a true must see. 91/100