On the Silver Screen – Fury
Fury follows the crew of a Sherman tank of the same name in the final days of World War II after the Germans have been beaten but before they surrendered so our story involves the crew moving from town to town to take them from the Germans before they inevitably surrender.
World War II films are very much a dime a dozen and seem to be particularly popular during Oscar season, probably because a group of heroes fighting for freedom and realising how how horrific their situation is goes down well with the Academy. My mileage tends to vary with them but this one is a good one.
The story is very simple and is well told as a result. There really isn’t much to the film beyond the tank crew traveling from place to place and fighting the Germans. Simplicity in this case is a very good thing; since there’s nothing overly complex going on it makes it all easy to follow and allows the characters to take the central focus of the narrative.
Brad Pitt’s Don “Wardaddy” Collier is more or less the standard tough guy action hero trope but there are enough scenes of character development to allow him to rise above it. Not to mention Pitt’s innate likeability as a leading man and his general performance elevating material that could come across as fairly mundane in lesser hands.
Logan Lerman does a great job as Normal Ellson, a young newcomer who couldn’t be any greener. From the moment we first see him he’s inexperienced and thrown headfirst into a situation he’s unprepared for among people who don’t want him to be there. The friction among the crew at this point is obvious and the film effectively puts the audience in Ellson’s situation. Great effort is made to make him as likeable as possible with several scenes where he demonstrates his uncorrupted ethics. It’s an impressive use of shorthand to get the audience onside.
The rest of the characters aren’t nearly as well developed. Shia LaBeouf is Boyd “Bible” Swan the religious one, Michael Peña is Trini “Gordo” Garcia who doesn’t really have a defined trait other than he fulfills the diversity quota for the team. Jon Bernthal is Grady “Coon-Ass” Travis, the morally repugnant one. There’s not much to really say about them other than the fact that they seem to stick to their character traits and do a decent job of it. It makes it difficult to really care about what happens to them but it makes the team bonding scenes entertaining to watch.
Some of the camaraderie scenes come across as a little long winded and some of the chatter is fairly uninteresting. There’s a cool down scene in a German house that has been commandeered that just seems to drag on past the stage where the point has been clearly made. A poignant payoff makes up for this in a lot of ways though.
The film itself does tend to run a little long with many scenes overstaying their welcome. There were many moments where I wanted the story to pick up again and move onto the next thing. Lots of time was spent on the banter between the troops while traveling.
Using the interior of a tank as the main setting is a great choice. The claustrophobia comes across very well and it’s easy to see a group of extroverted guys getting on each other’s nerves by spending hours or days at a time cooked up in a cramped and hot metal shell. It’s nicely decorated with medals and other trophies claimed from battle.
When the War scenes happen they are incredible and showcase probably the best tank warfare scenes ever put on film. I really like battle scenes that focus on the tactics involved and this film absolutely delivers in spades. There was a real element of strategy to all of the battles and it only adds to the excitement of them. My major issue with the action sequences is at times they can be unnecessarily violent showing things that can be a little sickening to look at. Ultimately they are very exciting and a lot of fun to watch.
Thematically the film focuses on the really simple and well worn idea that War is bad and turns good people into murderous psychopaths. We see both ends of the journey with Normal Ellson beginning his descent into moral bankruptcy while the rest of the team crossed that line long ago. Pitt’s Wardaddy has a fatherly instinct towards Ellson but it’s only because he realises he’s too far gone despite the fact that he’s more or less the only member of the team who still respects the enemy in some way. I guess we can’t risk having Brad Pitt act too unlikeable.
An engaging war story with a claustrophobic atmosphere. The characters aren’t especially well developed but they fill their roles in the story well enough. A simple narrative helps to make this film easier to follow and some horrific imagery really hammers home how much War sucks. When the War scenes happen they are incredible with an impressive display of tactics adding to the excitement of these scenes. All told, the film does run a little long but there’s enough going on to hold the interest of the viewer throughout.