Written and directed by David Ayer, the writer of Training Day and writer/director of End of Watch, Fury is a movie about tank operators behind enemy lines in WW2. We open in the film with Don ‘Wardaddy’ Collier (Brad Pitt) jumping out of a tank and stabbing a lone Nazi soldier. But despite the similarity in Brad Pitt’s characters, this isn’t Inglorious Bastards. Fury attempts to take a more serious tone and show some of the difficulties of working in a tank during WW2, but the movie just ends up feeling like a cartoon.
After the tank crew gets back to the American camp, they are greeted with Norman Ellison (Logan Lerman), the replacement for one of the members of the crew that has died. Ellison has been trained as a typing clerk and has no experience working in tanks. He is berated by Wardaddy for putting the tank’s lives in danger, and later says he would rather die than kill a Nazi. Then, approximately 4 seconds later, he starts screaming about he wants to kill all of the Nazis. There’s no justification for the character development, but it happens and you just need to assume that you get completely desensitized by the brutality of war on your first day. Although when going into a foreign environment it’s good to have a character who is just as inexperienced as the audience, Norman Ellison is so poorly written that Logan Lerman’s solid performance isn’t enough to carry the movie.
The other performances are decent as well, but the characters are just as haphazardly written. Brad Pitt plays a hard-ridden tank commander. Jon Bernthal plays an uneducated, angry person. Shia LaBeouf, although giving one of the stronger performances here, is nothing more than a religious fanatic. And Michael Peña drives the tank. The film spends lots of time establishing and reestablishing these clichés, but never creating anything more. In one lengthy sequence, the film comes to a blinding halt and Wardaddy and Ellinson eat food with two German cousins. But then it’s over and the characters haven’t really been developed any further.
One of the stylistic choices the film makes is tinting the bullets to be either green or red. It’s massively distracting and makes you feel like you’re watching a sci-fi film. Although having visible tracers is historically accurate, I’m not sure that it was color-coded so that all of the Nazi’s ammunition was green and all of the American’s ammunition was red. While a vast majority of the film takes place in the tank, it never really feels claustrophobic. In fact, it almost seems as if the titular tank is more of a suite. You never even see anybody else other than the commanders in the other tanks; even when the tanks are destroyed there is no indication of death. Similarly, all of the Nazis are pawns. They aren’t different individuals, but rather a big collective evil that has no sense of real strategy. When one tank takes on a huge SS brigade, the Nazis drop like flies, and it feels like you’re watching video game characters die rather than real people.
Despite its faults, Fury is still bearable to sit through. There are a couple action scenes that end up being pretty fun, and the actors are all pretty charismatic. I never felt bored, just underwhelmed. Any real emotion was simply replaced by blatant manipulation. The film seems to lack focus. 4/10.