by George Wolf
“See that? That’s an entire city on fire.”
It is World War II, and grizzled combat vet Sgt. Don “Wardaddy” Collier (Brad Pitt) is teaching scared rookie Norman Ellison (Logan Lerman) about the horrors of battle.
Fury is hardly the first movie to use a naive soldier as an extension of the audience, and that metaphor is just one of the familiar devices the film leans on to craft a competent, if not exactly groundbreaking, drama of war.
Collier leads a 5-man Sherman Tank crew which also includes “Bible” (Shia LeBeouf), “Gordo” (Michael Pena) and “Coon-Ass” (Jon Bernthal). Deep inside Germany, their combat prowess earns the team a mission with mighty long odds. On their own, they must cut off an entire Nazi regiment before it reaches a defenseless Allied supply station.
Writer/director David Ayer (End of Watch) presents powerful battle scenes, frequently gripping and bursting with ugly brutality. Less successful are Ayers’s attempts at the humanity the story needs to cut deeper.
The confines of the tank are a good start, as we feel a bond with the five men simply from the claustrophobic closeups. But as the combat scenes stack up, the character development is reduced to quick sketches we’ve seen before.
The scripture-quoting marksman (Saving Private Ryan), the greenhorn not meant for the battlefield (Full Metal Jacket) and the facially scarred taskmaster (Platoon) are all here, instantly familiar and throwing roadblocks into Fury‘s attempt to reach higher ground.
Pitt is fantastic in the lead, with solid support from all his co-stars. Lerman’s effective naïveté, when thrown beside four eager members of an actual killing machine, creates a stark moral ambiguity that lingers, even if Norman’s transformation from “boy to man” is a bit lacking in subtlety.
Same goes for turning “Wardaddy” into a mythic G.I. Superjoe. Pitt has the chops that could have delivered on the chance to peek inside his character’s psyche, but it doesn’t come.
Instead, though the film’s final standoff definitely delivers the tension, Fury can’t go out in the blaze of glory it aimed for.