War movies seem to fall into two categories, sentimental and patriotic, or dark and fatalistic. But is it possible to be both?
“Fury” is the story of a group of war hardened men who man a tank towards the end of WWII. When a new recruit is added the mix, he must quickly adapt to the harshness of war on the groups final and perhaps most important mission. Brad Pitt plays the War Hardened leader of the crew, with Shia La Beoff and Michael Pena as part of his crew. Logan Lerman, who may be best known as “Percy Jackson” steps in as the rookie recruit thrust into the dark realities of war. Realities director David Ayer is not hesitant to put in graphic detail up on the screen. It’s true, this movie is not for the squeamish, but to be fair, neither is war.
And that’s probably the heart of “Fury”, War is hell. From frame one we are introduced to a desperate world of kill or be killed, and to the brutal truth of what WW2 might have been like in these tank battalions. And yet underneath the violence and death, and amidst the seeming hopelessness, somehow the movie shines the occasional light on the power of mercy and grace even in the darkest situation. I wouldn’t go so far as to call this a heart-warming movie or anything, but those rare moments do exist in sharp contrast to the darkness around them. Much of that power is due to what I would call the best thing about the movie, the incredible performances. Brad Pitt is steadfast as this sergeant, and brutal with his approach, and yet somehow manages to leak out nuances of empathy and care. Michael Pena and Logan Lerman also do great work here with some pretty heavy stuff on their plates as well. But the standout for me had to be Shia LaBeouf whose bible believing, straight shooting tank gunner was the kind of performance that just captures every moment its on the screen.
In fact, the only member of the crew that didn’t quite do it for me was Jon Bernthal who you may remember as Shane from “The Walking Dead”. I just found his performance of the low intelligence, low morality man on the team to be so over the top, that I couldn’t find any truth of humanity in it. As if he were some sort of dog on a leash rather than just a disturbed soldier. It’s an unfortunate miss, especially with the great work going on around him, because it became a distracting reminder that as compelling as this material was, it wasn’t real. I mean sure the harsh realities of war were real, but this story itself never actually happened. It’s not that the movie loses points for being fiction, it’s only when it feels like fiction that I start to get distracted and unfortunately, primarily because of that performance, that does happen here every so often.
Still, overall, “Fury” is another powerful film by David Ayers, the action is powerful but brutal and most of the performances are so incredible that some interesting moments of light somehow manage to escape this overwhelming darkness. Even with a few over the top moments I say it still finishes it’s mission with a B.