War is hell. Sure movies like “Paths of Glory” or “Apocalypse Now” or “Saving Private Ryan” have been telling us this for years, but the new movie “Fury” really wants to drive this point home.
This movie is a meat grinder, wallowing in the mud and the blood and the guts of Germany in the waning days of World War II.
The focus of the film is a veteran Sherman tank crew who live, fight and die in the belly of the beast they have dubbed Fury.
The men tick off all the boxes in the stock-war-movie-character checklist. We have the battle-hardened leader, Sgt. Don Collier (Brad Pitt playing a significantly toned-down version of the same character he played in “Inglorious Basterds).
Then there is the born-again Christian Boyd “Bible” Swan (Shia LaBeouf, who, in spite of all of his insane antics, is a really talented actor) desperate to morally justify all the killing he does.
Next is the volatile, uncouth wildcard Grady Travis (Jon Bernthal) followed by the comic relief “Gordo” Garcia (Michael Pena), who gets bonus points for addressing a cinematic blind spot by proving Hispanics actually did fight in WWII.
Finally, we have the green, timid replacement Pvt. Norman Ellison (Logan Lerman, best known as Percy Jackson from the kiddie-lit franchise), who serves as our window into this world and nearly cracks up when presented with relentless horrors of war.
“Fury” was written and directed by David Ayer, who has been responsible for some pretty decent movies (“End of Watch”) and some pretty lousy ones, too (“Sabotage”).
Here, he is giving us absolutely nothing we haven’t seen before, but he does it well and he does it with an above-average cast, which makes this movie redeemable and a worthy entrant into the bleaker end of the war-movie genre.
Ayer is adept at focusing on the terror of war where men struggle to hold on to their humanity and where ever-present cruelty is both purposeful and random. But he is also able to effectively tease out the thrill of war and its dark nobility.
In one standout scene, three American tanks led by Collier face off against a vastly technologically superior German Tiger tank. It is a pulse-pounding, riveting moment that is both frightening and exhilarating to the point I was looking for someone to high-five when it was over.
“Fury” is a well-made, finely-acted movie that suffers only from being not particularly insightful or original. It is a brutal film and because of its shortcomings, it’s not worth enduring if headshots and dismemberments aren’t your cup of tea.
But if you do have the stomach for it, it is an effective movie that reminds us that when it comes to war, for every ounce of glory, there is a pound of death.
“Fury” is rated R for strong sequences of war violence, some grisly images, and language throughout.