Movie Information

The Story: A post-D-Day war story about a tank crew making their way through Germany. The Lowdown: Violent, bloody, straightforward old-school war movie that overcomes its shortcomings in its battle scenes — with help from three of its five lead actors.
Genre: War
Director: David Ayer (Street Kings)
Starring: Brad Pitt, Shia LeBeouf, Logan Lerman, Michael Peña, Jon Bernthal
Rated: R

Wardaddy (Brad Pitt) with Norman (Logan Lerman) in Columbia Pictures' FURY.


Fury is a pleasantly nasty surprise. There is nothing in writer-director David Ayer’s filmography — and I include his Training Day (2001) screenplay in that statement — to suggest that it would be any more than adequate. Back when Ayer made Street Kings (2008), I wrote, “It’s all very loud and very bloody — and somehow agreeably dumb without ever being actually good.” Fury is also very loud and very bloody — and sometimes a little dumb — but it actually is good. At least, it’s mostly good. There is no reason it needed to be as long as it is — and several scenes could obviously have been trimmed down to good effect. Three of its five main characters are handled with great aplomb by Brad Pitt, Logan Lerman and, yes, Shia LaBeouf (despite an unfortunate mustache). On the other hand, Michael Peña’s character tends to drift into the background, and I wish Jon Bernthal’s hillbilly (and his pudding-bowl haircut) would have drifted out of the film altogether.




It is also worth noting that Fury is essentially a very old-fashioned war movie — but one tricked out with post-Saving Private Ryan (1998) gore. That may or may not be a bad thing, though I’d feel better about it if it was a little more consistent when it comes to movie stars. When you get right down to it, Ayer’s tank crew is nothing but an old WWII movie right down to its ethnically and culturally diverse characters. Had it been made in WWII it might have starred Errol Flynn, William Prince, Dane Clark, Arthur Kennedy and George Tobias. What Ayer gives us is just a lot more grim and a lot more bloody, but it’s only slightly more nuanced — and some of the nuances are pretty much window dressing. None of this, however, prevents the film from being a straight-up war movie. If that’s what you want, this has it to spare. It’s the kind of movie people call “unflinching,” which really just means grim and bloody.




There’s less a story here than a situation. Tank commander Don “Wardaddy” Collier (Pitt — think of him in Inglourious Basterds, only playing it straight) and his similarly war-seasoned crew, Boyd “Bible” Swan (LaBeouf), Trini “Gordo” Garcia (Peña), Grady “Coon-Ass” Travis (Bernthal) — find themselves saddled with wet-behind-the-ears Norman Ellison (Lerman) as the replacement for a fallen comrade. What follows is the kid’s baptism by fire as they go on his first mission, which, of course, turns out to be of the deadly variety. Let’s face it, no other kind of mission would make for much of a movie.




The characters are nearly as straightforward as the movie. The most intriguing is LaBeouf’s “Bible,” who is not only as religious — and prone to interesting (and peculiar) theological discourse — as his name implies, but is also generally bookish and even slightly detached. The only one with much of a character arc is Lerman’s Norman — who wins the name “Machine” over the course of the film — and it’s hardly an unpredictable one, but the ever-reliable young actor makes it seem more interesting than it is. But the selling point of the film lies in its war scenes, which is also why an extended scene — and a quasi-romance for Norman — with two German girls drags badly before too long. The battle scenes, however, are splendidly done, especially the final one where the five men and one immobile Sherman tank try to take on hundreds of German soldiers. Yes, it’s preposterous, and the very fact that they make this stand makes very little sense, but while it’s on-screen, it’s relentlessly suspenseful — so much so that it’s hard not to overlook the dodgy sense of it all. In fact, it’s good enough to make up for the movie’s missteps. Rated R for strong sequences of war violence, some grisly images and language throughout.


About Ken Hanke
Head film critic for Mountain Xpress from December 2000 until his death in June 2016. Author of books "Ken Russell's Films," "Charlie Chan at the Movies," "A Critical Guide to Horror Film Series," "Tim Burton: An Unauthorized Biography of the Filmmaker."

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9 thoughts on “Fury

  1. T.rex

    I walked in thinking this would be good and walked out thinking it was fantastic. This is the best war movie I’ve seen since A MIDNIGHT CLEAR in 1992 due a lot to the film’s claustrophobic nature and making me feel like part of the crew in that tight space. This will be on my top ten list. Will it be on yours?

  2. Edwin Arnaudin

    The battle scenes are among the best in recent war cinema, but I thought just about everything that happens when they’re not in the tank is pretty bad. That apartment sequence – yikes!

  3. T.rex

    Yeah, I’m still on the fence with that apartment sequence. I enjoyed it’s sense of randomness but it went on for a long time.

  4. Ken Hanke

    For me, it’s altogether an okay movie with some outstanding things in it. Certainly, it was better than I expected given David Ayer’s filmography, but it’s a long, long way from a Ten Best candidate.

  5. T.rex

    Quite a boost to Ayer’s career. His prior films (written or directed) were decent at best and nothing has been more overrated than Training Day (aka Denzel ‘s Malcom X Academy Award).

  6. Ken Hanke

    Maybe a boost. It’s all well and good to claim “No. One film in the country,” but with a $68 million budget (pre-advertising), it’s gonna take a lot more than it’s grossed just to break even. It’s at about $30 million know. That means it only needs about about $130 million more to be in the black.

  7. Lorin Bice

    It disappointed me that everyone in the movie, American or German, lacked even a modicum of the self-preservation instinct. Am I missing some profound truth the movie was trying to tell, or is this an example of sacrificing story-telling for the sake of getting to the action sequences?
    Also, I agree that the hillbilly character could have served us better by not being there at all. Perhaps he could have been better employed in the next chainsaw massacre remake…

    • Ken Hanke

      I think your second guess — getting to the action scenes — is nearer the mark.

      And, yes, that character could have a great future in the inbred cannibal hillbilly sub-genre.

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