Before it’s all said and done during the awards sweeps season, many films will be hailed as either pretenders or contenders. The excellently-presented Sony Pictures movie “Fury,” starring Brad Pitt, Shia LaBeouf. Michael Pena and Logan Lerman, has stamped itself as a viable player in the serious contender category. War films are about realism and capturing the authenticity of those moments.
Director David Ayer hammers both attributes home with such gut-check reality that it tends to make one cry out in wonderment about the willingness of engagement of any country to participate in the human atrocity called war. Because of the huge numbers in loss of lives, the indescribable taxation on the human spirit and the catastrophic impact on families left behind, war is usually is a topic of pain and unthinkable tragedy, a subject that is outright difficult to talk about.
Well, “Fury,” which opens in theaters Oct. 17, will get you to talk about the subject in more ways than one. Up front, war is the not for the feint of heart. Neither is watching the grim scenes of seeing the blood and gore that come to dominate the film. But what else would you expect from a war movie? From the opening scene to the climatic finale, the ugly side of war centers around a solider’s (good and bad) demise that speaks to the harsh reality that war has no respect of a person.
War is brutal, in-your-face and without apology. For this type of depiction, Ayer, the mastermind behind “End of Watch and “Training Day,” receives an A grade. In war-it is pretty much kill or be killed; maim or be maimed. Ayer excellently captures the realism of this concept through the eyes of a U.S. tank crew going behind enemy lines in Nazi Germany.
Internally dealing with his own ghosts of war, Don “Wardaddy” Collier (Brad Pitt) is the pragmatic thinking sergeant that must take his crew into one battle zone after another after losing one of his men. To cap things off, Wardaddy and the “Fury” crew find out the replacement for the lost soldier is a wide-eye kid with no training in the line of war except in the way of being a typist clerk (Norman Ellison), whose individual morals will not allow him to take the life of another man.
Obviously, this becomes a pertinent issue that Wardaddy realizes he must handle immediately or risk putting the lives of the rest of his men on the line. Logan Lerman plays Norman with such innocence and naiveness that he unfortunately takes that cluelessness into battle with him. That kind of thinking winds up costing the lives of supporting troops as Norman hesitate to shoot down children trained by the Nazi Germany government to kill U. S, soldiers and allies in late 1945.
Instead of taking him back to camp where the allies are set up, Wardaddy uses his own method of enacting court martial to a solider who directly disobeyed his commanding officer to shoot down the enemy by taking a gun and hands it to Norman and directs him to shoot a Nazi soldier in the back. In the ensuing tug-of-war between Wardaddy and Norman that winds up with the Nazi bad guy leaning forward with a big hole in his back, a transformation seems comes over Norman that shakes his core: he had killed a man. He had took another life.
Lerman is quite believable in this role, going from innocent bystander to hardcore killer who grows into sharing Wardaddy’s disdain for Nazi soldiers. By and large, “Fury” is dominated by the metamorphosis that Norman undergoes all the way until the end of the film. By the end of the movie we get to know all of the characters quite well. That’s because Ayer makes a push for us to get to know the crew members of the “Fury.” Much like family members, the tank crew of the “Fury,” are not perfect people; they argue, fight among themselves and share happy times.
Like family, it is the commonality of a struggle or purpose that bridge their differences. And this tank crew couldn’t be any different from one another. Let’s start with LeBouf’s Bible-scripture, quoting gunner character Boyd Swan. This is a Shia LaBeouf we have not seen before. LaBeouf says a lot less in this role than just about any other major roles he has had before, but his acting speaks volumes. It is a much darker, reflective LaBeouf we see in “Fury” as Swan is able to digest his Christian belief with the harsh reality that he has become a hardened killer.
It is a role that should earn LaBeouf some hardware come awards season as he takes his acting to another level in this powerful film.Overall, the cast in “Fury” do a masterful job of making you feel their emotions and the anguish of being part of a war. They are faced with the fact they have to shoot down children forced by the Nazi government to engage with the enemy. Pena’s Trini Garcia character and Jon Bernthal’s Grady Travis add credible depth in their respective roles as part of the “Fury” tank crew that goes through a fateful 24-hour period in fighting the dying throes of the Nazi regime.
There are no winners in war; just a lot of pain. Children suffer. Families are devastated. If they happen to survive, soldiers are scarred for life with emotional, physical and psychological trauma to last several lifetimes. Somehow, Ayer and the well-rounded cast of “Fury” captures that essence with prime time portrayals that is both authentic and genuine.