Even in the short time he’s been directing films, David Ayer has shown he has a no frills approach to storytelling. Just a quick glance at films like Training Day, Harsh Times, and End of Watch, will reveal, consistently, very specific types of characters – ones so gritty, visceral and real that they seem to come through the screen. Now no one ever proclaimed that war is glamorous, but Ayer seems to go to great pains to make sure no one would ever imagine war as anything other than a living hell.
Further, it’s hard to call any soldier a “hero” once you learn the lengths some may go to to win a war. Now that’s not condemning any person in the armed forces, but time seems to have allowed us to forget how gruesome WWII really was. None-the-less, Ayer’s film is a gripping, and sobering look into one of the most pivotal times in our history. Brad Pitt so eloquently states, in one of the film’s few moments of waning calm, that “ideas are peaceful, but history is violent“. Much like that sentiment, this is a film where words speak louder than any action. Moreover, there is incredible depth and gravity to things said between soldiers. Sometimes though, there’s just a need to clear the air for the sake of it – there’s a great need to purge your head of the maddening things that come from fighting for so long.
The film takes place in April, 1945, and we find the Allies are making make their final push into Nazi Germany. They’re weary, desolate and beyond exhausted. Also, they are desensitized to the horrors of their job, and they are on the verge of simply losing it. For 2 hours and 15 minutes, Ayer’s film plays like a bad dream that continually worsens. It’s made all the more grueling and deflating because the end of war is close, but also so very far away.
Pitt leads the crew of the “Fury”, and while they reluctantly have become hardened killers, the look in their eyes says it all – they have checked out. Yet, oddly enough, they are still quite afraid of dying even if many have accepted it. Shia LaBeouf (who does an incredible job in the film despite his recently tarnished public image), Michael Pena, and especially Jon Bernthal give amazing, if very distant, performances. Their hearts beat, and they react to stimulus, and they’re damn good at their job, but they seem dead inside. Or perhaps it’s the absence of a soul because of what must be done to save the world from the Nazi machine…or simply survive the fight.
What makes this all the more engaging, and, at the same time, hopeless, is the sensationally bleak score from Steven Price. Earlier this year, Price took home an Oscar for his score to Gravity and this film features an equally unexpected hybrid of orchestral and highly stylized atmospheric and electronic sounds. It’s as unrelenting as the film and creates uneasiness at every turn – fitting for a film is about a tank crew who faces certain death every second of every day, huh?
Fury is graphic and unflinching, and most of all, (aside from the cinematic presentation) honest. It doesn’t take much to believe that these really were the conditions the soldiers, nay, heroes, were facing so far into the war. Whether it was experiencing battle for four straight years or, like Logan Lerman, a soldier’s ‘first day on the job’, you have to adapt quick if you want to keep yourself, and those next to you, alive.
Harrowing and heavy at times, but bold, engaging and gripping, Fury cuts like a knife. Further, Ayer’s cast gives exceptional performances (again, LeBeouf most surprisingly) in a film unafraid to portray soldiers, all but removed from humanity, committing horrors of war just to win. Like Michael Pena so calmly, but lifelessly, states, “it’s not pretty, but it’s what we do“. That cold delivery alone is just one reason why this is easily the most daring, and haunting war film since Platoon.