This World War Two effort is gritty, brutal and deals with the tense confinement and microcosm of a tank in such a dramatic way. The ending may be slightly twee and Hollywood as an American film about Americans and it’s grander desires of storming out a thoughtful award hitter may be lost to bullet fire and explosions but it works so well in visualising the awful horrors of war.
In the latter stages of WW2, American Allies are pushing forward into Nazi occupied Germany and amongst one division is a fighting brotherhood led by Don Collier (Brad Pitt). His crew consist of religious gunner Boyd (Shia LeBeouf), driver Trini or ‘Gordo’ (Michael Pena), gun loader and nut Grady (Jon Bernthal) and petrified typist-now driver Norman (Logan Lerman). As they capture towns, drink, argue, shoot enemies and try to hold ground at a crossroads they become a family in the last ditch attempts to halt or slow down the Germans.
The cinematography of these raging battles by Roman Vasyanov is astounding. The muddy fields, ripped roads and shelled towns are seen in such beautiful yet devastating frames that you can’t evade how shocking the horrors of this war was. It’s images that really bring in the toll of the war efforts and from dirty faces to bloody bodies you see the huge aftermath of the fighting. The locations feel grimy and real, every little detail makes you feel as if you’re there amongst the terror of the Second World War. The way the final scenario of their battered tank at the crossroads is filmed is so effective in building tension and elevating the comradely spirit in what could be their final hours together. Their tank ‘Fury’ is a beast of a machine that tears scarily and majestically through Vasyanov’s and David Ayer’s work.
David Ayer directs this feature with his speciality of translating masculinity and war to the big screen. There is a hell of a lot of loud whistling bombs and gun fire but it’s necessary and he never makes the action sequences get tiresome. Each one seems to come with a different take to make you think how each battle for real life people in that war could never expect anything. Treacherous, nervous times for all that enlisted and Ayer captures that human emotion even when the men are trying to be strong, you believe it’s the best job they ever had, they’re now accustomed to the consequences of war. The moments away from cannons and grenades are in no way boring though as we grow to these men as squabbling drunk fools to lethal and loyal friends.
Threading through all this raw depiction of WW2 is the paternal development between Don and Norman. It can feel a little strained to get an emotional side of things going but after a while you cannot help but attach yourself to Norman as he grows in confidence against people he’d never expected to face in a vehicle he’d never desired to get in. Don is in ways a father figure to all his men but he truly becomes that helpful persona in dealing with Norman’s nerves. It’s a nice human connection to counter balance the visceral extremities of war.
Steven Price is on fine form in charge of music here. I had no idea it was him involved until the credits rolled but after his aural splendour on ‘Gravity’ he’s back with class for this movie. Marching chants blend with unnerving sounds and percussion to rack up the tension in the latter stages of the film concerning the predicament of their stuck tank. There is a hollow like echo and choir whisper to quite a few of the songs that mix in with shocks of backing music to amp up suspense and the deadly trials of war even in it’s closing stages.
In the mix of this very dark affecting showcase of war are some brilliant acting performances. Brad Pitt leads the troop with his usual charisma, flair and macho know-how but you can sense his fear and trepidation as men die around him leaving their tank and squad alone. The decisions are resting with him and shows his at times, fracturing leadership with comfort. Logan Lerman is the biggest emotional weight amongst the men in his vulnerability and innocence, it’s a great journey for him as he makes Norman come to life in the rise from inexperience to all out confidence. Shia LeBeouf is truly great, quiet but domineering in the background and wow does he have the knack for harrowing animal cries when coping with someones death. Michael Pena provides a rarer moment of big laughs when entering the once relaxed cozy setting of a German home with hat and cane. Jon Bernthal is like the rabid dog who you have to grow to love and he plays that with unshakable quality. The entire cast sell a dining table scene with tension and awkward unease making it stand out as one of the favourite parts of the film.
I’d not be too drawn back in saying this film doesn’t have huge mind to its work though. It is brutally thumping and one of the more gritty, dark better war movies I’ve seen but intelligence of a moral/message seems to be looked over to leave us seeing men ridden into the ground or shot in the face.
Exquisitely shot and realism of detail makes the battleground of war-torn Germany feel awesomely real, a tense, juggernaut ride with enough loud noises to leave you forgetting true heart is left behind at the tank’s hatch.