Starring: Brad Pitt, Logan Lerman, Shia LaBeouf
Genre: Drama/ War
In April 1945 allied forces are beginning their advance through Germany, and battle hardened Don ‘Wardaddy’ Collier (Pitt) who commands a crew of five driving a Sherman tank undertakes a deadly mission behind enemy lines. However after the death of one of their crew they are forced to take on a rookie (Lerman), and they find themselves outnumbered and outgunned and up against increasingly impossible odds.
Considering all the testosterone filled films that David Ayer has written and directed, it is quite a surprise it has taken him this long to write or direct another war film since his screenwriting debut U-571 in 2000. Well here it is, and the title is as unsurprisingly unsubtle as the film itself, as is the norm with any film that David Ayer is responsible for. Well, Ayer’s penchant for unflinching and brutal violence seems like a match made in heaven for the narrative of Fury, and from a technical and visual point of view Fury delivers the intense thrills that it should, but contains all the narrative flaws of Ayer’s other films.
This seeming lack of real character development almost seems intentional as Ayer loves making brutal and intense action and does not even care about character development or indeed his deeply misogynistic depiction of female characters. It is slightly odd that though Ayer seems to show no intention of having character developments other than obvious clichés (Logan Lerman’s journey from scared rookie to instinctive Nazi killer feels extremely contrived and forced), but yet scenes that should be of ‘character development’ contribute to making Fury far longer than it should be and the scenes are just ultimately quite pointless.
When the intense action finally takes a breather there is a whole sequence that takes place in a town and in the hands of a different writer/director this could prove to be an integral scene in which a lot is revealed about the film’s characters and our emotional engagement with them is enhanced. However this is not something David Ayer can do and he is particularly bad at writing female characters, and so this whole pointless sequence just adds twenty pointless minutes to what is quite an unnecessarily long film. David Ayer films are way too shallow and forgettable to ever be considered as ‘epics’, so he should be aware of this and make sure his films never exceed 100 minutes.
There is no denying that the action sequences do deliver, and produce intense and brutal thrills. The claustrophobia of being inside a tank is genuinely felt throughout with constant intense close-ups. Though Ayer’s script makes a lame attempt at it, partly thanks to the solid performances (in particular a predictably committed turn form Brad Pitt who with a single facial expression can give more development to his character than an entire David Ayer script) it is impossible to not care for these characters as the narrative develops. When the final sequence arrives and our heroes are outnumbered Ayer admittedly is happy to manipulate time, but it only enhances what is a great sequence once an extremely clichéd and predictable scene is got out of the way.
There are admittedly moments when Fury tries to have a balanced approach to war and that there are innocent casualties on both sides, but on the whole it is shallow and vacuous war-porn, but is made with enough authentic ferocity to be a genuinely thrilling ride.
Ayer’s long overdue war film certainly bears his usual trademarks of less than competent or balanced storytelling and character development, but is an undeniably intense and thrilling ride.