Fury calls for a celebration, because not only is Brad Pitt’s hair finally fixed, but it sat atop the head of an actor delivering a fantastic performance in a really, really good movie. Better yet: the war between the Greek gods must be over, because Logan Lerman (aka demigod Percy Jackson himself) has returned to the mortal world to fight in a very different war, one told with enough haunting cinematography to linger in the minds of the audience long after the end. (In more neutral news, it turns out Shia LaBeouf was just kidding about giving up acting. Oh.)
Though devoid of a consistent story outside of “We’re being shot at in this location!” and “Now we’re being shot at in this different location!,” director David Ayer manages to create a great cast of US crewmen operating a tank in the middle of Germany during World War II. Especially effective here is the film’s sound effects during these fight scenes, featuring deep-felt, vibrate-the-clothes-on-your-back missile pops and booms that enthrall far deeper than the battle’s solid but understated visuals.
Fury is a film that deeply immerses its audience, and while its tone occasionally wavers from “harsh reality” to “artistic dream” in a way that detracts from the overall film (again, caused by lack of a solid plot), it is an overall accomplishment.
Don “Wardaddy” Collier (Pitt) just lost his tank’s longtime assistant driver and receives Norman Ellison (Lerman) as his replacement. Norman isn’t meant to hold a weapon (he’s trained as a typist who can type 60 word a minute, after all), but he has to learn quickly when he’s put in charge of manning one of the guns in Wardaddy’s tank, Fury. Also on crew: technician “Bible” (LaBeouf), Coon-Ass (Jon Bernthal), and fellow gunner “Gordo” (Michael Peña). As they invade Germany further and dangers become more common, Norman has trouble taking the life of someone, even an enemy – even at the expense of his fellow soldiers.
The tank sometimes loses course outside of battle scenes – particularly around the film’s midpoint, where the crew arrives in a small German town and suddenly adapt an “artsy” style of dialogue as Norman develops his first short lived, half-hour-at-the-most romantic relationship that somehow emotionally damages him for life. While I get the point (yet another lesson of growing up for poor Percy Jackson) it could have done without the passive aggressive “metaphoric” conversations completely disjointed from the rest of the movie.
But that’s only one scene, and the rest are really good. Lerman is a revelation. He’s still too young and still acts too high-school-sophomore-awkward to shed his teen heartthrob identity quite yet, but the role was perfect for him to transition into more serious films. Peña and Bernthal are used mainly to prop up Lerman’s character, but they’re still hugely enjoyable in their own rights. Pitt delivers a restrained, powerful performance of an impenetrable character gradually fracturing, and LaBeouf is self-aware enough to realize he is playing a character in a movie.
Ayer’s direction does not shy away from brutality – in fact, it’s attracted to it like a firefly. It’s a tough watch – maybe too tough? – but it respectfully gives homage to the events it is based on. Fury is a solid two hours spent, even if some of it needed to be calmed down just a little.