Ideals are peaceful. History is violent.
Brad Pitt’s (“The Counselor”) stern and stoic Don “Wardaddy” Collier states this to a frantic, fearful Norman (Logan Lerman, “Noah”) as they, along with a battalion of American troops and tanks, seize a German town in 1945. The scene, ironically, is one of the more peaceful ones of “Fury,” as Don and Norman come across two women hiding in their small apartment. In an otherwise violent, chaotic film, the scene takes a step back from the war-torn streets and gives both the audience and the characters some time to breathe. But in the midst of war, these fragile moments can only last so long.
This is what “Fury” captures so well; the never-ending hardships of war and the small moments to never take for granted. Director David Ayer, whose most recent films include “Sabotage” and the viciously underrated “End of Watch,” throws the audience right into the midst of this struggle. The film opens with the tank Fury’s five-man crew reduced to four—another casualty of war. This isn’t a spoiler; it’s the premise of the film. Norman, a young soldier of only two months, is assigned to Don’s crew and must adjust to the harsh terrain of the battlefield quickly or risk his own life and that of his team.
Norman is idealistic; in relation to the aforementioned quote, he’s peaceful. He came into the army with the skill-set of typing 60 words a minute, not to chop down Nazis with an intimidating tank. This puts him at odds with his new crew who put their lives on the line under Don’s leadership day in and day out. He swore to keep them alive and they would die for him. This relationship is the driving force of the film. This is why the transition from them questioning Norman to rallying behind him is a tad unrealistic; it’s a fast change, but in a film with only so much time to work with, it isn’t damaging or distracting. Their bond is engaging enough where the audience is immersed in it from beginning to end.
With that said, there isn’t much in the way of character development. We learn a brief history of Don, and we know a little, not much, about Norman, but it ends there. The three other crewmen—Boyd (Shia LeBeouf, “Nymphomaniac”), Trini (Michael Peña, “Frontera”), and Grady (Jon Bernthal, “The Wolf of Wall Street”)—get very little in the line of development. However, perhaps that’s the point. As stated, we are thrust into the middle of this war with them. Whatever they were before doesn’t matter at this point. All that matters is their bond now. And their identities now belong with Fury.
Ayer paints a vivid picture of war that is both haunting and beautiful. We have seen these effects in other films of this nature—“Saving Private Ryan,” “Schindler’s List”—and it never fails to shock an audience with just how horrifying it all truly was. “Fury” captures this essence without over-doing it. It’s about how war takes, takes and takes, but it’s also about the five men at its heart. Everyone delivers solid performances; Pitt owns every scene, Lerman is incredibly impressive, Bernthal taps into his “The Walking Dead” days to deliver the more hot-headed member of the group, LeBeouf steps out of his awkward acting phase to deliver something memorable and Peña provides the film with some (not too much) comic relief.
It’s too early to tell whether “Fury” will go down as “one of the best war films to be made,” but it’s certainly one of the best in recent memory. History is violent, and the film captures that. It captures the toll war takes on people and it brings them together. Heroes are molded this way. “Fury” molds its heroes out of friendship and sacrifice.