Thursday, October 23, 2014

'Fury' review

The last time Brad Pitt did a World War II movie, it was Inglorious Basterds. The last time David Ayer did a film about brothers in intense combat, it was End of Watch. Naturally, people were excited for Fury, Ayer's gritty, violent war drama set during the final months of World War II. With a cast led by Pitt, Shia LaBeouf, Michael Pena, Logan Lerman and Jon Bernthal, Fury is a highly entertaining drama with great performances and some of the most exhilarating battle scenes of the year. It does wander in the middle a little bit, but the pure filmmaking on display in Fury is worth the price of admission and more.

A man rides on a horse through a battleground littered with bodies. The white horse stands out among the dead bodies and shattered tanks. Suddenly, a man jumps off a tank and the man straight through the eye. The man with the knife is Sgt. Don "Wardaddy" Collier (Pitt), one of the last members of a five-man Sherman tank crew. Wardaddy, Bible (LaBeouf), Gordo (Pena) and Coon-Ass (Bernthal) manage to get the tank moving and head back to a war camp. A fresh young rookie named Norman Ellison (Lerman) is then assigned to their crew. Norman has strong ideals and is highly opposed to killing. Of course the team immediately dislikes him. However, through many lethal experiences and dangerous missions behind enemy lines, the crew bonds together before facing their most dangerous threat yet.

Fury might not quite be as viscerally graphic as Steven Spielberg's masterpiece Saving Private Ryan, but it is certainly up there with that gruesome film. This is a viciously intense film filled with indescribably perfect moments and strong performances from its lead crew. They all have strong chemistry with each other and manage to make you care about the characters. Not to mention the absolutely astounding battle scenes. Fury has a few problems, yet still manages to impress because of its outstanding filmmaking qualities.

The opening scene of Fury is something worth talking about because it wowed me immediately. Ayer's camera appears to be looking at a mountain range, but it's actually a patch of dirt littered with bodies. The way that it so perfectly captures the horror and oddity of war is mesmerizing. The simple beauty is then interrupted by the shocking outburst of violence I mentioned earlier. After that, we're then introduced to the entire tank crew. It's the perfect way to open this movie and simply one of the best opening scenes I've ever witnessed.

Fury's opening represents the best of this film and the pinnacle of what Ayer was trying to do with this movie. It's not to say that it's all downhill from there, but the opening perfectly expresses Ayer's themes and the power of this film. War is quiet dialogue and simple, unusual conversations with surprisingly disturbing violence intermixed every once in a while. Despite the fact that Fury is not a completely perfect film, it's an exceedingly well made one and a film that inspires thought even days after the initial viewing.

Five strong performances also highlight this thematically and emotionally involving war film. Brad Pitt doesn't quite have the same brash gusto that he does in Inglourious Basterds, yet he still manages to give a quietly thoughtful performance. Shia LaBeouf is also impressive as Bible, the most philosophical member of the group. Despite the fact Jon Bernthal and Michael Pena have less to do, both manage to chew the scenery at different times. In the end, Logan Lerman surprised me the most. Granted, he's the only one with a dynamic character to work with, but it's still strong work.

The sheer adrenaline rush of the battle scenes is terrific as well, managing to find the proper balance between horror and excitement. The crew's final stand inside the broken tank is an amazing war scene, a perfect mix of blood, atmospheric cinematography and brilliant sound design. And throughout the early parts of the film, there are other impressive battles, especially the one between a German Panzer tank and the Sherman. It is purely awesome.

On the technical side of things, this is a perfect film. The sound design was insanely good, and even if this film gets shut out in the major categories at the Oscars, it will surely be nominated for a lot of the technical stuff. The sound makes you feel as if you're really there and it is spectacular. The cinematography is perfect, capturing every single detail of the World War II atmosphere. It's especially impressive during the final battle of the film.

Fury runs into its only problem around the middle of the film. It's a movie without much of a narrative, which has worked in many previous war films, but in the case of Fury, it makes the film feel a little aimless after a while. The second act is also dreadfully slow. The crew heads into the house of a German family and then proceeds to stay there for over twenty minutes. It's a long scene without much purpose and it doesn't really impact anything for the rest of the film. I remember hearing that some scenes were added to Fury to strengthen the bond between the characters, and if I had to guess, that was the scene that was added.

In the end, this is great filmmaking from director David Ayer in a very solid flick. It's a movie filled with extraordinary battle scenes and strong acting. Fury lost me a little bit in the second act, but managed to come back stronger than ever with an intense and emotional third act highlighted by an awesome and intense battle scene. In all likelihood, Fury is a movie that will last in your memory for quite some time after you watching it. That, along with the strong direction and sense of atmosphere, makes Fury worth watching.

THE FINAL GRADE:  B+                                            (7.6/10)

Image Credits: Red Carpet Refs, Shock Ya, Geek Tyrant, Film School Rejects, Fat Movie Guy

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