"Ideals are peaceful. History is violent."
Writer (Training Day) turned director David Ayer (End of Watch) represents some of the best and worst tendencies in contemporary American filmmaking. He often tells messy, ultra-masculine crime stories involving corrupt authority figures and blurry morals as he trades in L.A. cop dramas for a fictional story about an American army troupe in 1945 Germany during the dying days of World War II in Fury. Brad Pitt dials back his inner Aldo Raine as "Wardaddy", once again leading a band of misfits fighting Germans in the titular named tank.
The diverse yet über beefy cast including Logan Lerman, Michael Peña, Jon Bernthal, and Shia LaBeouf, play different stock character types effortlessly. Each plays a particular part adding to the brutally visceral war aesthetic. However, it's really Lerman's story as we follow his journey from innocence into war under the authoritative leadership of Pitt's Wardaddy. LaBeouf, in earnest, really brings an affective gravitas and tenderness, doing great but subtle character work as "Bible", the occasionally thumping troupe member. The men act through their exhausted, dirty faces full of haunted expressions and traumatic stress. We see without dialogue the toll of war for generations to come.
The direction from Ayer's own original script is technically dazzling and engrossing during the flawless edited and choreographed tank battle sequences despite the harsh, violent subject matter. Apart from the period detail of tracer rounds of ammunition looking like lasers (seriously), the extended scenes of combat and tank warfare are highly compelling in their graphic depiction. This is contrasted with a slow series of scenes in the middle of the film set at the apartment of two German women (Anamaria Marinca and Alicia von Rittberg) after the Allies take over their town. The non-war interlude reveals itself so false and disturbingly on sexual politics and the nature of good and evil in war. It's by far the most exploitive part of the film and not coincidentally the only segment featuring women.
Ayer continues his string of male-driven films about fatalism and duty. Fury is an unsentimental yet fluidly engaging, absorbing portrait of men and war at their best and worst. Pitt is ideally constructed as the prototypical hero leader of a brotherhood, silently bold and stoic, framing the story of harsh times and masculine bravado. Its atmospheric tone and sombre, inviting nature take us into the disturbing tranquility of organized violence. It adds itself to America's long list of WWII films revising history for cinematic insight.
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