DIRECTOR: David Ayer5672_4224

CAST: Brad Pitt, Shia LaBeouf, Logan Lerman, Michael Peña, Jon Bernthal, Jason Isaacs, Scott Eastwood, Xavier Samuel, Brad William Henke, Eugenia Kuzmina, Kevin Vance, Branko Tomović, Iain Garrett, Stella Stocker, Alicia von Rittberg

RUNNING TIME: 134 mins

CERTIFICATE: 15

BASICALLY…: A five-man tank crew, led by Don “Wardaddy” Collier (Pitt), make a stand as they travel through Germany during the final days of World War 2…

NOW FOR THE REVIEW…

Because it’s set during the Second World War, because Brad Pitt is headlining, and even because it opens with Pitt stabbing a horseback Nazi in the head, many would probably assume they’re in for an Inglourious Basterds-style wartime romp. Nothing could be farther from the truth, and while Fury is certainly a powerful representation of the era and mindset of American soldiers at that time in history it never positions itself as a fun time. It’s the anti-Basterds, stating loud and clear the honest truth about fighting in any war: it sucks, period.

Writer-director David Ayer is not afraid to get his message across at every opportunity he can, with soldiers being shot at or executed every left and right, lifeless bodies being run over by large vehicles or hung around lampposts as a sign of their cowardice, and so on. As modern war movies go, Fury is certainly one of the bleaker ones based on its brutal depiction alone, possibly since the likes of Saving Private Ryan. One would like to think this hard-hitting, near-accurate portrayal is Ayer secretly apologising for his debut script for U-571, another WW2-era flick which controversially suggested it was America that cracked the Enigma code rather than the Brits (a fact cleared up in The Imitation Game, out next month but please do read our review here). However, Ayer still puts together a strong script and tight direction from a scenario unlike anything he’s tackled before – his directional career has mostly consisted of crime thrillers, including End of Watch and this year’s earlier obnoxious Schwarzenegger fest Sabotage – and creates a vibral if hard to digest atmosphere where it truly is kill or be killed.

While Ayer seems to be the mastermind behind the camera, a good load of credit must be given to other behind-the-scenes players that have gifted the filmmaker with a strong set of skills used to make one hell of an effective experience. Russian cinematographer Roman Vasyanov reunites with Ayer after collaborating on End of Watch, and through his lenses we see a beautifully unpleasant (in a good way) world that’s as violent as it is dark and nuanced – the opening shot is exceptionally haunting, and sets the tone of the rest of the film nicely. Steven Price, who was awarded an Oscar for his work on Gravity last year, contributes a sombre but strangely soothing musical score which, though not used quite as well as his work was in Alfonso Cuarón’s hands, still works well to continue the dark and disturbed vibe the on-screen visuals create. Exception sound design work can be found in the film’s many standout sequences, whether it’s in the line of fire with tank versus tank or simply in the quiet and tense environment of a breakfast table (the latter is a particularly well-crafted scene courtesy of everyone involved, resembling something adapted straight from the stage rather than a full-blown war film but still working as its own standalone contribution). It should also be pointed out that this film features, for the first time in film history, a genuine Tiger I tank in action as opposed to a specially-made replica – that’s a fact that should please anyone interested in the Second World War, and should give everyone else an idea of how brutal these machines could be when in combat.

The film’s cast give exceptional performances, with Logan Lerman in particular standing out as the wide-eyed innocent hardened by certain acts, although sadly it’s Michael Peña and especially The Walking Dead’s Jon Bernthal that get the shorter ends of the stick with the least compelling roles out of the main ensemble. Bernthal seems to be playing a cartoonish caricature of a 40s hillbilly complete with exaggerated Southern accent and lavishly-awful haircut, while Peña – another End of Watch collaborator – is given a hardened Latino persona but seemingly not much else. Pitt commands the screen as always, while Shia LaBeouf leaves his Transformers days behind him in a much more humane role as the religious soul of the group (now, if only he can use that to explain his bizarre public persona over the past year). Jason Isaacs pops up for a couple of scenes to give weighty exposition but disappears completely afterward, never to be seen again – perhaps the former Lucius Malfoy used a spell to make us forget about his minor character in the grander scheme of things? But this is reality, so probably not.

As authentic as Ayer attempts to make everything feel in this film, there are still one or two false notes to be found in the wreckage. During the aforementioned breakfast table sequence, hosted by two frightened women almost held against their will by Pitt and crew, Lerman’s character bonds with one of the women in more ways than one. Given the circumstances, and especially how these people were being treated only seconds earlier, the action seems one-sided and, for lack of a better word, rape-y. It’s a little off-putting, but possibly not as much as some may feel with the violence. This reviewer didn’t mind the extra gore all that much, but those not particularly fond of a few heads blowing up (or, in some cases, off) or torsos being set alight et cetera then you’re probably not going to be all too fond of this one.

All in all, Fury delivers exactly that: a furious depiction of the bleak and hardened facts of war and fighting in it. War, whether it’s then or now, sucks and this movie is testament to that.

SO, TO SUM UP…

Fury is an impressive but bleak war story, both shot and written with a tight grasp by David Ayer, with impressive performances and cinematography, sound and score. If you end up missing this, you’ll be pretty furious with yourself…