Synopsis: In the waning days of World War II, Norman Ellison (Logan Lerman) is assigned a seat on Fury, a Sherman tank under the command of Don "Wardaddy" Collier (Brad Pitt). Don's crew (Shia LaBeouf, Michael Pena, and John Bernthal) are hardened soldiers who've fought and killed Nazis together across three years and numerous countries while Norman is new to the horrors of war. They're forced to bond quickly, however, as Fury is put through a series of difficult missions, culminating in a final stand that finds the tanks and its crew the only barrier between the Allied supply train and an army of zealous SS soldiers.
What I Liked: I'm a big fan of writer/director David Ayer and his unflinching, committed style of film making. His stuff isn't always great but he's very persistent (maybe even stubborn) when it comes to identifying what his story is all about and sticking to it completely. With Fury, he's attempting to show the ways in which a horrible war takes its toll on the humanity of those involved. Using a tank crew to tell this story is an interesting and somewhat unique concept and one that, at least on the surface, allows for some separation between this film and its war-related contemporaries. No one wants to make a movie that sits in the shadow of Saving Private Ryan and I think Ayer does his best to keep Fury from falling into that comparison.
For his part, Pitt turned in a quality performance, though one that borrowed more than a little from his turn in Inglourious Basterds. I quite like Pitt but he's not a limitless actor and he sometimes struggles in a leading role trying to do too much. Here, though, he stays within his range and it works. He is outclassed, however, by LaBeouf who absolutely shines in a smaller role that I desperately wanted more of. There are small moments in which LaBeouf absolutely makes the film and I left wondering if this might be the turning of a page for him.
And while some of the action sequences are only mediocre, there is a pivotal scene in which Fury takes on a German Tiger tank that had me on the edge of my proverbial seat. It's an extremely tense sequence that reminded me of something you might see in an old submarine movie. Really great work.
What I Didn't Like: As I said above, Ayer is completely committed to whatever road he sets out on and I think that got the best of him this time around. Fury is a bleak affair and one that almost drowns in its own grimness. I don't need my World War II movies to be happy-fun-time but this one could've used a touch of light here or there just to break up the monotony of dark and depressing. You rarely sympathize with Fury's crew, mostly because they're all already so broken that they've lost their humanity. To be a true study in the horrors of war, Fury needed to take place a little further back up the road before all the characters had been completely changed. As it is, it just becomes exhausting, especially in scenes that drastically needed to be edited down. One scene in particular, set inside an apartment post-liberation, is excruciatingly uncomfortable and threatened to make me check out altogether.
Some of the effects are a bit firework-y which seems out of place in a realistic war film and Fury doesn't always avoid the classic beats of the genre, resulting in a story that feels a little paint-by-numbers at times. And almost all of the characters are one-note cliches, leaving their success or failure completely in the hands of the actors. Pitt and LaBeouf succeed, Bernthal and Pena fail, and Lerman bounces back and forth on the pass/fail line. I think we might need to be done with the Bernthal experience and I've yet to be impressed by Pena. Everyone tells me he's a good actor and I'm not saying he's not, I'm just saying I still haven't seen him do anything that made him click for me.
Conclusion: Fury has some excellent moments but ultimately, it's a disappointment. It lingers too long in the wrong places and skips around those that might lead to a little more depth of story, character, and even tone. It isn't a total waste or even a complete misfire, it just doesn't reach the goal it sets out for itself.
Grade: B- (Rated R for war violence, language, sexual references and overall grimness)