|UK Release Date||22nd October 2014|
|Starring||Boys and tanks|
|Reviewed||21st October 2014 (LFF)|
David Ayer’s Fury, an intense, gruelling and intimate look at World War II and the effects it had on the men involved.
April 1945 and Sargent Don ‘Wardaddy’ Collier is heading up a ravaged, beaten up crew of men so desensitised to the horrors of war they don’t bat an eyelid at their headless colleague sat next to them in the tank. It’s only when- 8 week in the army- clerk Norman who is ‘trained to type 60 wpm not machine gun dead bodies’ joins them that his despair at the violence shines a beacon of light onto the dark place these men have been living in.
From the opening scene of the white horse carrying an SS Officer who is taken out by Wardaddy, the fairytale esque image of the horse against the murky early morning war torn backdrop we can see that Ayer is trying to make something different from your average war movie. Artistic symbolism married up with intense violent war scenes. It’s ambitious and sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t but Fury is a powerful cinematic experience alright and every main performance is simply outstanding.
Ayer has described Fury as a family drama. These men are at this point so close; they do everything together, usually confined in small spaces. As dysfunctional as it is they are a family. In an interview Jon Berthnal said your family are the ones you love the most but also hurt you the most. That’s how it is with this motley crue; the things they have been through/are going through together have cemented them for life. Brothers in arms indeed. Tanks aside, Ayer and the cast cite the tense ‘dinner’ scene where the group of men sit down with two German ladies as the most difficult to shoot. This is where Ayer really pushed his actors to go for each other, upset each other. It’s an intensely dramatic scene and LaBeouf is outstanding although every actor in the scene is really quite something as we watch these characters hurt each other mentally.
Much has been made in the media of how deeply into method Shia LeBeouf went to get into his character (pulling out teeth, opening wounds) but Michael Pena, John Berthnal and Brad Pitt also seem to have gone pretty ‘deep’, at Ayer’s request. Whatever they did it worked, there isn’t a false moment between them on the screen. It’s pretty outstanding. And to Brad Pitt. It is interesting having him as such an unsympathetic character as Wardaddy. Pitt is no Tom Hanks of course having played edgier roles in movies like Kalifornia but he has moved into a kind of America’s sweetheart role and is one of the most recognised men in the world. Wardaddy is at first an anti-hero, single minded in his utter lack of empathy or sympathy for anyone who isn’t on the same page as him. Not a very nice characters but as the film progresses he becomes much more of a traditional all American war hero but I preferred the edgier version. Pitt is wonderful in the role and, of course, we want to see him be the hero but it just felt like a somewhat unnatural shift in character.
We spend the most screen time with Wardaddy or Norman so it’s of tremendous credit to LeBeouf, Pena and Berthnal that are so effective and commanding of presence that I was left wanting more. In a two hour war movie I would have liked a bit more of these men. Amazing. Ayer has created impressively captivating dialogue and character here and it is well executed by all players but let’s be of no misunderstanding here - this film really belongs to Logan Lerman. Lerman’s transformation from despairing innocent to Nazi hunting ‘machine’ is remarkable stuff. Pushed by Wardaddy who tells him ‘you’re not good to me if you can’t kill Nazis’ Norman becomes what he at first despises. A killer. Lerman does this subtlety and tentatively so it remains real and powerful throughout. A tremendous performance.
A bleak landscape of muted colours and frosty vistas make up Fury. The tank rolls always through mud and usually over bodies long dead, being pushed further down into the earth, to be forgotten. Roman Vasaynov's beautiful camera work means the landscapes are often reminiscent of war paintings. Poetic and beautiful with great depth. An aerial shot after a tank fight is breathtaking. Andrew Menzie’s production design and Anna B Shepherd’s costume blend effortlessly together in the surrounds. The only scene that doesn’t take place in the tank or outside is a dinner party scene where the colours of the dresses the women are wearing and the forced civility round the table contrast so strongly with the war town mongrels sitting round the table. It's clear that Fury was a labour of love for all involved.
The action sequences inside the tanks are edge of the seat stuff throughout. It’s as exciting as you can get and Ayer has used the camera inside the tank to the maximum. For a war movie Fury really isn’t that bloody. There are of course a huge amount of death and loss but Ayer doesn’t linger hugely on gore and personally that made the film better for me. The inner workings of the tank and the way those men had to have each others backs at every turn is much more interesting. The scenes inside the tank are intense to say the least. We really get a feel for how little these boys could see and how much they absolutely had to be a team at all times or they’d be dead. It's gripping and emotional filmmaking.
Fury is an interesting and bold war movie; on one hand quite unlike any other I’ve seen, on the other strangely reminiscent of a few. Roman Vasaynov’s beautiful camerawork coupled with Ayer’s dialogue and directing and a wonderful cast make for a memorable and bold movie. It’s emotional, flawed, dirty, heart breaking, exhausting and doesn’t always add up - bit like war itself then.
Check out the trailer here.