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Fury (Brad Pitt) - DVD Review

Fury

Review by Rob Carnevale

IndieLondon Rating: 3.5 out of 5

DAVID Ayer claims he wanted to make one of the most realistic Second World War movies ever committed to film with loud, gritty and ultra-violent tank drama Fury but he can’t help but pander to Hollywood convention in the process.

The resulting film just misses out on joining the greats (like Saving Private Ryan) but remains a solid, if gruelling combat experience.

A Navy veteran himself, Ayer also sought insight from leading tank experts and World War II veterans in his bid to realise a vision of hell on-screen. And, for long periods, his film is a vividly realised, expertly crafted insight into the horrors of war and the evils that men can commit upon each other – a point highlighted early on when Shia LaBeouf’s Bible-spewing soldier warns Logan Lerman’s righteous new recruit: “Just you wait and see what men can do to each other.”

The story unfolds in Germany in April, 1945, as the Allies make their final push to Berlin. At the forefront of this drive is the tank crew of Fury, captained by Don ‘Wardaddy’ Collier (Brad Pitt) and comprised of the battle-weary Boyd ‘Bible’ Swan (LaBeouf), Trini ‘Gordo’ Garcia (Michael Pena) and Grady ‘Coon-Ass’ Travis (Jon Bernthal). Joining them, meanwhile, is rookie recruit Norman Ellison (Lerman), who must undergo a baptism of fire if he is to survive the ensuing turmoil.

Their subsequent journey is frought with peril as fleeing Germans mount last ditch resistance attempts or counter-offensives designed to inflict as much damage as possible.

Ayer, for his part, captures the uncertainty and fragility of life in a tank to superb effect, as well as the tensions that exist between the crew as they wrestle with the demons of past actions that have helped to keep them alive to this point. And he does a good job of balancing out the talking with the warfare.

His cast also excel, with Pitt especially memorable as ‘Wardaddy’, offering up a paternal figure whose fierce survival instinct incites some brutal acts, especially in his handling and initiation of young Ellison. It’s a complex role that is, thankfully, given room to flourish by Ayer’s direction and script.

But LaBeouf is also effective as the religious one, striking a nice mix of earnest and annoying at different points, while Pena is typically strong as Garcia. The ensemble perform well together and genuinely convince as a group of brothers in arms who have seen too much and want nothing more than for the war to end… no matter how hard they know it will be for them to reintegrate into real life.

In terms of visual spectacle, Ayer also succeeds in delivering some striking sequences: capturing the oppressive nature of life in Germany (where Allied sympathisers hang from trees and buildings) as well as the desperation of battle. A sequence involving three Sherman tanks and a lone Tiger is particularly thrilling and tense, while an overhead shot of warplanes going to battle with each other has an eerie beauty.

But sadly, Ayer cannot sustain this level of excellence throughout. Some of the story arcs feel awkward and contrived, not least the journey of Lerman’s Ellison. A lengthy sequence in a ‘liberated’ German town, when Wardaddy and Ellison are entertained by two beautiful women, strains credibility at certain points despite allowing the opportunity to see the moral and ethical conflict that exists within Wardaddy.

And the final Alamo-style last stand is also likely to divide opinion. On the one hand, it’s superbly choreographed and exciting but some of the outcomes feel like a cop-out and the stuff of audience-pleasing movie convention rather than the gritty realism that has marked so much of the preceding film.

Hence, while genuinely impressive in places, especially in its attention to detail (both technical and emotional), Fury can also be a frustrating experience in the way that it plays out certain sequences.

It remains worthy of big screen viewing and is a good war movie that successfully captures the folly of war in an unflinching manner. But the suspicion lingers that it could have been even better.

Certificate: 15
Running time: 134mins
UK Blu-ray & DVD Release: February 23, 2015