“Hell hath no “Fury” like a battalion outnumbered

Movie still from "Fury." (Associated Press photo)

Movie still from “Fury.” (Associated Press photo)

by Jeff Boudreaux

“Fury,” directed by David Ayer (End of Watch, Sabotage), is the most realistic war film since “Saving Private Ryan” in 1998. With master storytelling, a stellar cast and the only fully functional “Tiger” tank in existence, Ayer’s film rises above conventional war dramas.

The film focuses on an American tank squadron in the waning days of WWII. The crew of “Fury” consists of five soldiers who travel deep into the heart of Nazi-Germany on what many would call a “suicide” mission. The leader is Sergeant Don “War Daddy” Collier (Brad Pitt), a man who has seen action and would do anything for his men. The other soldiers include Corporal Trini “Gordo” Garcia (Michael Pena), Technician Boyd “Bible” Swan (Shia LaBeouf), PFC Grady “Coon-Ass” Travis (Jon Bernthal), and private Norman Ellsion (Logan Lerman).

Ellison, a young conscientious objector and army typist, replaces their recently deceased gunner. Norman obviously was not trained for his new job and poses initial risks for his fellow soldiers. However, with some tough love by Collier and his crew, Norman accepts his role and is accepted in return. Once that is taken care of, the film focuses on the crew as a unit and their attempt at survival while holding a German crossroads in light of unbelievable odds.

There’s a spectacular tank battle to be seen between the American Shermans and the German Tiger. This scene employed realistic tactics in the positioning of the tanks. Kudos to David “Sting” Rae and the rest of the military advisors for making the battle sequences as real as possible.

The film is solid, but I must mention a serious drawback to the film. There is one scene involving Norman that occurs near the end of the film that should have been scrapped. I can’t imagine what happens sitting well with test audiences. Nevertheless, moviegoers can judge for themselves whether or not this scene, which they will know right away, works.

Brad Pitt gives a tremendous performance here and is rightfully top-billed, but the film belongs to Logan Lerman. The star of the “Percy Jackson” series gives the best performance of his career, which can only go up from here. His character is basically the lead role in “Fury,” and mostly everything we see is from his vantage point. His interaction with Pitt drives the film. The entire saga of Norman’s growth alongside his battle-worn crewmates is the paragon of wartime storytelling.

Also impressive is Jon Bernthal’s performance as the backwoods smart-aleck of the group. Bernthal, former star of AMC’s “The Walking Dead,” had me revisiting episodes of that show just so I could see if the character of Shane Walsh was as goofy as “Coon-Ass.” He wasn’t. I can only surmise that we’ll be seeing a lot more of him in feature films. The inclusion of Shia Labeouf in this film also reminded me that there’s a good actor behind all of his silly antics in the media. And what else can be said about Michael Pena besides the fact that he’s always a joy to watch onscreen.

The actors playing the crew of the “Fury” convey true camaraderie amongst a squadron that must rely on each other in order to survive. All five stars display a chemistry not usually seen on film. They fight and they bicker at times, but these characters truly love one another. They are family in the only sense of the word that matters.

With first-rate acting and breathtaking cinematography by Roman Vasyanov, “Fury” is a stunning film to watch with long-lasting images, both horrific and beautiful. This would certainly be considered the pinnacle of David Ayers’ directorial career. While I disagree with how that scene I referred to earlier plays out, I cannot help but appreciate everything else that is right about this film.

*** (three out of four stars)

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