4 out of 4 stars
Brad Pitt killed zombies in World War Z, Greeks in Troy, a diabolical serial murderer in Se7en and even conventional baseball wisdom in Moneyball.
But in Fury, Pitt kills like he’s never killed before in a performance that seizes your attention from the opening scene until the screen fades to black more than two hours later. Yes, Pitt slayed Nazis in 2009’s Inglourious Basterds, but no one has portrayed a soldier better than Pitt does as Sgt. Don “Wardaddy” Collier in Fury.
Perhaps no event has spawned more movies than World War II, which resulted in an American victory that still resonates today.
Saving Private Ryan, which somehow lost the Oscar for Best Picture in 1998 to Shakespeare in Love in what’s the most ridiculous Oscar-decision ever, has long set the standard – until now, depending on your point of view. While Saving Private Ryan’s story and journey through the French countryside following D-Day may be better, Fury’s character development and gruesome war scenes that had women in the audience covering their eyes, are unparalleled.
Collier is the unquestioned leader of a crew of five men who couldn’t be more different, which director David Ayer turns into one of Fury’s strengths.
Boyd Swan (Shia LaBeouf) is as passionate about killing as he is about religion, while Grady Travis (Jon Bernthal) is a crass hillbilly who has no boundaries. Trini Garcia (Michael Pena) is a Mexican-American whose thirst for shooting Nazis is only matched by his love of liquor. And then there’s Norman Ellison (Logan Lerman), a typist with no combat experience who fills the tank’s open seat after its occupant had his face blown off.
From Collier turning a scared and soft-spoken Ellison into a hardened killer to Travis taking whatever he pleases and from Swan trying to make sense of the bodies of bullet-ridden children, several of Fury’s most powerful scenes take place after the explosions have ceased.
The crew’s chemistry is completely believable, as each man handles witnessing the atrocities of war in his own way, yet the crew is united by their willingness to keep the man next to him alive right down to their final stand against dozens of Nazis.
But amid the gore and violence lies beauty, a story of how an outmanned and outgunned American force trudged through the German countryside to win a war in which many paid the ultimate price.
Ayer doesn’t patronize or try to make the soldiers look like super heroes – he just makes it real by making the audience feel as their in the fight with nifty camera work. Ayer makes it feel as if you’re in the tank, sitting next to Travis as he loads ammunition.
If you can’t handle seeing limbs, including heads, get severed when hit by large-caliber weapons, then you’ll spend half the movie with your hands over your face.
And it will be still worth the price of admission.
Jon Gallo is an award-winning journalist and editor with 19 years of experience, including stints as a staff writer at The Washington Post and sports editor at The Baltimore Examiner. He also believes the government should declare federal holidays in honor of the following: the Round of 64 of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament; the Friday of the Sweet 16; the Monday after the Super Bowl; and of course, the day after the release of the latest Madden NFL video game.