Fury - A Film Review for the WW2 Tank Epic
October 17, 2014
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Fury (2014) takes place in April 1945 with only a little over a month remaining in the war in Europe, the Americans make their advance into the German Fatherland. The film shows this from the perspective of five tank crew members. This ensemble cast includes Brad Pitt(as Don 'Wardaddy' Collier), Shia LeBeouf( as Boys 'Bible' Swan, Jon Bernthal( as Grady 'Coon-Ass' Travis), Michael Pena(as Trini 'Gordo' Garcia), and Logan Lerman( as Norman Ellison). The film is written and directed by David Ayer (Writer/Director of 'End of Watch', writer for 'Training Day') and is accompanied by an effective score from composer Steven Price.
The American tank that the film is centered on is the m4 Sherman. This is a medium tank mass-produced by the U.S. in ww2 and supplied to the British, Russians, and other allied nations via the lend-lease act. It's primary role was infantry support as it's armor and cannon fell short of its German opponents at this point such as the Tiger and Panther tanks. The tank has a five man crew as portrayed in the film which consists of the Commander, gunner, loader, driver, and co-driver. Though not as powerful by itself, in large numbers and with faster speeds they are able to sometimes take on larger opponents like the Tiger 1.
When the original assistant driver from the veteran crew of their M4A3E8 Sherman is killed in battlem a new recruit(Norman Ellison) is put in his place. Commander Collier is not impressed with this choice of replacement but reluctantly accepts him after hearing who had assigned him there. The crew further despise him when he hesitates to shoot a German teenager with a panzerfaust which allows him to take out another Sherman and it's crew. In an effort to toughen Ellison up, Collier tries to force him to execute a captured SS officer. Ellison does so technically only because Collier forces the gun in his hand.
From there on the connection between them grows and Ellison learns to lose his hesitance for shooting Germans when he mercy kills several German soldiers who are on fire in the process of clearing out a town. A lengthy scene in this small German town involving two German women furthers this bond when Collier convinces Ellison to have sex with the younger woman, which we are led to assume he does. When Ellison, Collier, and the two women have breakfast afterwards the other crew barge in and tensions rise as we see their conflicts of character and how war has changed the different men.
Fury and its crew are assigned to a 4-tank battalion tasked with holding a crossing. However when they encounter a heavily-armored German Tiger tank their tanks are outclassed. The Tiger ends up destroying the 3 other tanks with Fury being the one who finally manages to take it out. Their tank is all alone and when it hits a landmine they are now immobilized. When a column of 300 SS soldiers approach the five tank crew must decide whether they should flee or plan an ambush which leads to the final standoff promised in the film's trailer.
At a reported 134 minutes long, the film moves along at a pace that makes that time go by nearly 30 minutes or so faster. Most of the film doesn't follow a direct centralized plot but has an episodic structure similar to 'Saving Private Ryan'. We are following five men at war in different scenarios as they survive day by day. If you are familiar with Saving Private Ryan you will notice many similarities that show that the makers of this film were both influenced by and referenced that film here. The overall style uses an overall grim color palette similar to Saving Private Ryan but also references it in different scenes sine of these include a scene where they are securing a town and a German sniper shot takes out a man at an unsuspected moment and also a 'let them burn' scene similar to at the end of the D-Day beach sequence.
The film's poster reads "War never ends quietly" and it proves true as this was no calm march into Germany. Hitler had ordered a state of Total War where every man, woman, and child including the young, old, and weak are forced to fight against the approaching allied forces. We are shown this in some powerful scenes including the surrender of many children including girls when an SS held town is captured and also when children who refused to fight were hung by the SS. Though in retreat and losing the war, many of the Germans were resistant to the end.
Though many war films set in WW2 have the Allies are shown in an almost completely good light Fury manages to show some gray area. There are several scenes here where members of the SS who have surrendered are executed without trial. The soldiers here aren't just portrayed as courageous and honorable but as men who have been at was for years and it shows the anger and attrition that had built up within them. Another aspect never or almost never brought up is the rape of German women by western occupying forces. The scene with the two German women doesn't explicitly show this but goes in that direction and gives that kind of vibe that lesser men would've taken advantage of that situation.
Overall one of the main pros of the film is the fine performances from its main ensemble cast including Shia LeBeouf who has had a downfall as a person but proves he's a more than competent actor. The Battle scenes are both brutal, gritty, and exciting at the same time. We've seen before what ammo and explosives can do to the field infantry but Fury shows us the effects of what happens to a tank crew when their tank is hit by enemy fire in numerous brutal depictions. Unlike many other films that modify other tank models, Fury uses actual WW2 era tanks including a Tiger tank from the Bovington Tank Museum in the UK.
Fury does however have some down points including the scene with the two German women. At this point the pacing slows and it goes on for longer than it needs to. Many plot points become predictable early on and come at little surprise when they occur including who and when certain characters are killed off. A complaint with the final battle scene that is shared with many other films, including Saving Private Ryan, is that the German soldiers come off too incompetent and are too easily picked off where a real-life match up wouldn't turn out as favorably for the Americans.
Despite somewhat minor flaws 'Fury' manages to be an engaging and effective war film that builds up to an exciting climax.Well worth a watch or even a buy for fans of war movies and those who are interested in WW2.
Final Rating 8.5/10