4 11 2014

FuryThe “war is hell” thesis argued by David Ayer’s “Fury” is certainly nothing new under the sun.  But as the amount of viewers with personal connection to warfare dwindles daily, cinema must continue to provide this myth-making service to provide those images for our culture.  Ayer’s film serves as a reminder of the sacrifices that soldiers make as well as the brutality to which they are exposed on a consistent basis.

“Fury” begins at the end of the journey in 1945 Germany for a tank division under the leadership of Brad Pitt’s Don “Wardaddy” Collier, an equally red-blooded but less caricatured version of Aldo Raine from “Inglourious Basterds.” He commands a group of men who have all been visibly demoralized by fighting the inhumanity of the Nazis, particularly Shia LaBeouf’s world-weary Boyd “Bible” Swan.  His sobering nihilism marks the first clean break the actor has made from his goofy Louis Stevens persona, which has been an unwelcome legacy looming over all his work.

After one of their drivers is gunned down, the unit receives an unwelcome replacement in Logan Lerman’s green, babyfaced Norman Ellison.  Prior to stepping in the tank, his only experience of World War II had been from behind a typewriter doing clerical work.  Norman becomes the entry point into “Fury” as well as its emotional core, two roles that Lerman performs astutely.

Logan Lerman in Fury

Wardaddy takes it upon himself to educate Norman in the rules of the game.  He resists mightily, clinging to the lofty ethical code one can easily profess from the sidelines of war.  Though Norman and the film do get a little trigger-happy in its violent conclusion, Ayer never allows for a modicum of desensitization to infect “Fury.”  The horrific violence inflicted on helpless bodies is emphasized more than the usual war film, which supplies a much-needed dose of humanity amidst the gray, mucky desolation.

Ayer’s script does not provide much exciting plot to drive the film forward, so it plods along mainly on the strength of the characters and Norman’s wartime “coming-of-age.”  This indirection does make “Fury” drag in certain sections, in particular a second act sojourn in a conquered German village that adds little to the film besides minutes to its runtime.  Overall, however, Ayer powerfully shows how war can dishearten men, distort their moralities, yet also forge the ties that bind.  B2halfstars



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