Fury: A Valiant Ride That’s Short of Greatness

By October 20, 2014Movie Reviews

After Gone Girl, here is another hard-hitting flavor for audiences’ palate, in particular a combo of mud, smoke, blood and bullets of all sizes. By being visceral, Fury sates the need for a quality big-screen war film, but that alone can’t stop the tank from barreling into a few bumps.

April 1945 – despite having greatly weakened the Nazis, but in their last push, the Allies face the war’s most grueling period. Among those who persevere is the crew of the titular tank composing of commander “Wardaddy” (Brad Pitt), religious gunner Boyd (Shia LaBeouf), Hispanic driver “Gordo” (Michael Peña), brute loader and mechanic Grady (Jon Bernthal) and new recruit Norman Ellison (Logan Lerman). History buffs, take note of the patches: these guys are from the famous 2nd Armored Division of the U.S. Army, also known as “Hell on Wheels.”

Doing a complete 180 of Lieutenant Aldo Raine (vanquishing all Nazis remain top priority, however) Pitt embraces “Wardaddy”’s intimidating and battle-hardened traits, resulting in a solid performance as the man who’s seen too much but can’t afford to be vulnerable for the crew’s sake. Contrast to “Wardaddy” is Lerman’s typist-turned-fighter character, a role adequately played by the young actor yet difficult to relate because his development is straight from “neatness cinema.”

Though their moments are few and far between, Bernthal and Peña are compelling when behaving like a brat or seeing things through casual lens, respectively. Worth looking at as well is, surprise surprise, LaBeouf, who can be as magnetic as his co-stars even by not saying or doing much.

Fury becomes alive when the cast is together. Just like director David Ayer’s previous effort End of Watch, the characters and their interactions make the proceedings highly enjoyable. It helps too that cinematographer Roman Vasyanov (The East) knows how to show these elements, giving enough frame space for at least two characters to inhabit in conversation scenes and always placing the Fury at the center of high-octane battle scenes. All of these make up a veil obscure enough to hide the surrounding predictable plot.

It doesn’t take long, while watching the film or even the trailer, to work out everything. Nonetheless, this issue is more reasonable and less forced in Fury than End of Watch. The more troubling aspect, however, is when the film arrives at the house of two German girls (Alicia von Rittberg and Anamaria Marinca). While clearly designed and nicely orchestrated to show the inner layers of the crew, the sequence is so prolonged it borderlines extraneous. A true “damned if you cut and damned if you don’t” scenario.

As the title and tagline suggest, wars aren’t silent affairs. In Fury, noise is used to portray the scale of World War II. The rising wind, blazing fires, marching footsteps, gnawing gears, off-screen gunshots etc., a sound is always heard even when the crew doesn’t engage in combat. Composer Steven Price also makes his contribution by melding somber strings and jabs of electronic notes with the vocals of a German choir bellowing underneath. The score aims to immerse viewers, as Price did (so well in fact he got an Oscar) with Gravity, but there are two key parts where silence would’ve served the footage better.

Like the tank and the five guys inside, Fury displays bravery and an unyielding attitude towards being an excellent war film – but certain drawbacks park it at some miles away from its destination. That’s what happens when a functional vehicle is placed on a not so well-paved road.