Gritty and emotional – Fury treads into the experience of a Tank crew

WAR FILMS, and particularly Second World War films, have been slowly becoming far grittier over time. Gone are the films portraying the greatest generation laying down their lives willingly and nobly in the face of an evil enemy, and slowly emerging is a much harsher view of war in general, mainly in light of Vietnam War films. Fury has been described as the Vietnam War film for World War Two due to its gritty action and morally dubious characters, and in some ways it is. However, whilst keeping with current trends in war films it is also breaks new ground for war being portrayed on screen.

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The tank crew of ‘Fury’ – dir. David Ayer

The story of Fury follows the crew of a tank, part of the US army fighting in Germany in 1945 in the last month or two of the war in Europe. Led by Don ‘Wardaddy’ Collier (Brad Pitt) the tank crew includes untested rookie Norman Ellison (Logan Lerman), who together, set off on various missions along the advancing front in the face of stiff German resistance. Collier makes it clear he is interested in the welfare of his crew and Norman prepares for a trial by fire. With the other crew members of the tank being played by a stellar cast consisting of Shia LaBeouf, Michael Peña and Jon Bernthal, all giving strong performances, the comradery developed on screen is greatly captured from the inside of the tank.

A great part of this movie is the tank battles it brings to the screen, something difficult to do given their slow moving nature of tanks of that era. Also the filming from the inside of a tank greatly adds to an immersive atmosphere. From being in large scale battles with infantry to tank on tank duels, these scenes excellently portraying the tensions from the point of view of a tank. Whilst these are done very well, the final climactic battle where the crew ‘do their bit’ in the face of overwhelming odds is very cliché and there are moments when you feel ‘come on!’ due to moments of pure disbelief in a siege with a twist (hint, it involves a tank).

What is great about Fury is its stark portrayal of war in general. The brutality is shown straight from the start, with Brad Pitt knifing a German soldier in the face and Logan Lerman cleaning up the remains of his predecessor, including a portion of the man’s face. You see people’s heads blown off by shells, people burn to death or shot down unarmed whilst they surrender. This, in spite of its unpleasantness, certainly presents warfare extremely viscerally. The contrast of this is done in a rather wonderful (though slightly dragged out) scene in a dining room in a German town, demonstrating that civilized behavior is out of place and unnatural in this environment.

The brutality of war, no matter how horrible, is a good counter-balance to the slight jingoism portrayed in films with the US armed forces in them, such as Act of Valor. This has been something that in my eyes, good war films such as The Hurt Locker and to a lesser extent Saving Private Ryan, have done. The focus on an individual or small group of them, something that a tank crew can portray well, certainly makes the war seem a lot more personal and focusing on the human side and experience.

While this film sadly got to Aber months after its theatrical release, and this review even later, it would definitely be worth checking out when it is released on disc and digitally. With moving performances and a unique take on war, it is a good addition to the genre of war films.