War is hell. David Ayer’s FURY (2014) makes this abundantly clear. It’s April of 1945, and we’re deeply entrenched in the WW2 European campaign as the American troops along with our allies are pressing onward behind enemy lines into Germany. In comparison to the mighty power of the German Panzer, Panther and Tiger tanks, American troops were out-gunned and ill-equipped in their M4 Sherman tanks but forged on nonetheless. Historically speaking, this last month of war with small platoons traveling into enemy lines was a rather dangerous and harsh place and time. [This following review may contain SPOILERS.]
Although FURY (2014) is a fictional account, it follows the real depictions of the 2nd armoured division. This “Hell on Wheels” hardened group began under George S. Patton’s command trailing from North Africa (Casablanca), to Sicily, to landing on the Omaha Beach in Normandy, then crossing France into Germany near the Elbe River where our story begins. We meet army sergeant Wardaddy (Brad Pitt), tank commander, and his loyal 5 man crew as they come back to camp having just lost their 5th man. They barely have time for chow when their new replacement arrives, Norman Ellison (Logan Lerman). He is incredibly green, claiming his only military skill is typing 60 wpm.
This crew has seen a lot of war and stuck together through it all. They’re dirty, gritty, jaded, yet remain committed to their task. The newbie fella doesn’t fit in initially, at all. They quickly go straight into battle and Norman is tested. He fails to respond to a sighting of an SS soldier and which results in a fiery loss of life. There is a tense scene when Wardaddy demands Norman to learn to fight, to adjust to his new job of killing Nazi soldiers in order to save their own lives. He resists at first but by the end of the film, Norman evolves into a fighting “Machine,” having adopted his own fury.
Each of this five man crew has their own personality but all are loyal to each other, especially to Wardaddy. They consider “the FURY” (nickname of their tank) their tiny home and they refer to this hell, after each close call they endure, as “the best job they’ve ever had.” Each are affected by the traumas of war but manage to hold it together with prideful purpose.
There is a very interesting scene in a small German town where Wardaddy and Norman find two local women hiding in their apartment and make themselves at home. It’s strange at first because you’re not sure of their intentions. More so strange because the scared, innocent, and attractive young woman named Emma, despite the language barrier and her town being captured by these American soldiers only moments prior, immediately expresses a trustful attraction to Norman and the two soon go off to a bedroom for consentual sex. REALLY? The tone is presented as a brief escape to “play house” with civil manners and etiquette but their make-believe playtime is shortly interrupted by the other three men. They are drunk and aggressive, brashly destroying any civility. War interrupts further and this scene symbolically becomes a loss of innocence for Norman in so many ways.
Brad Pitt as Wardaddy plays their strong leader. He’s intelligent (and his ability to also speak fluent German comes in handy), strives for balance of morality, deserves the respect he’s earned by his men, yet secretly struggles with the horrors of war. He also has a passionate distaste for the SS. He’s definitely got our vote. “Coon-Ass” (Jon Bernthal, so it’s hard not to think of him as Shane from The Walking Dead) is the roughest of the group, culturally and social-skills-wise but at one point he admits to Norman he thinks he and Wardaddy are ‘the good men’ of the group, offering his humble respect. But like the others, he works hard and is dependable. “Gordo” (Michael Pena) serves as slightly more easy-going of the crew with an edge of light humor.
But it’s Shia LaBoeuf as “Bible” that is the stand-out performance here. Oh sure, we’ve all heard of his recent ‘crazy behavior’ in real-life and know of his early career as a child star (for most, that alone is a ticket to crazy town) and many tease him for his TRANSFORMERS roles in all their prettier-than-real-life Michael Bay glossiness. But I will stand behind this man as a great actor in this role. “Bible” is a man trying save the souls of others, or perhaps keep his own intact, as he balances quoting scripture while killing Nazis. His performance is often very intense and deeply moving and authentic.
“Ideals are peaceful. History is violent” says Wardaddy in a poignant exchange with Norman. This quote really sums up the core message of this film. I’ve seen many war films covering WW2 and other wars. But I must say this may be one of the most realistically violent war films I’ve ever experienced. I am very fortunate in that I cannot admit to ever experiencing wartime in person, but if the history books and personal accounts are true, I imagine this is about as close as it comes. As Wardaddy prophetically reflects to this violent transition of war in Europe, “It will end, soon. But before it does, a lot more people have to die.”
Written and directed by: David Ayer
Brad Pitt – Don “Wardaddy” Collier
Shia LaBeouf – Boyd “Bible” Swan
Logan Lerman – Norman “Machine” Ellison
Michael Pena – Trini “Gordo” Garcia
Jon Bernthal – Grady “Coon-Ass” Travis
Jim Parrack – Sergeant Binkowski
Brad William Henke – Sergeant Davis
Kevin Vance – Sergeant Peterson
Xavier Samuel – Lieutenant Parker
Jason Isaacs – Captain Waggoner
Ana Maria Marinca – Irma
Alicia von Rittberg – Emma
Scott Eastwood (yup, Clint’s son) – Sergeant Miles
Laurence Spellman – Sergeant Dillard
Daniel Betts – Burgermeister
Runtime – 134 minutes
Aspect ratio – 2.35 : 1