David Ayer has a knack for getting the little details right, while still crafting a sweeping story that rivets, compels and gives us characters we truly and deeply care about. Fury is his latest and the man who painted a grim and powerful portrait of working-the-streets LAPD cops in End of Watch has grown even further as a filmmaker with his latest starring Brad Pitt.
Pitt is Wardaddy, the leader of a tank unit fighting to finish off Germany on their own land in the waning days of World War II. He is surrounded by a crew riding in a tank that carries the movie’s name that is the best. The Fury cast is diverse and dynamic.
Jon Bernthal is the backwoods, foul-mouthed man who keeps the war machine moving. Shia LaBeouf portrays a soldier who is as fierce with his chaplain skills and bible verses as he is accurate as the tank’s gunner. And Michael Pena is the driver who has had them, as Pitt says in the Fury trailer, “killing Germans in Africa and now killing Germans in Germany.”
As the film begins they are returning to “base” from a mission where they lost their second gunner. Their new assignee is Norman (Logan Lerman), who has been in the military for all of eight weeks. He is joining a “family” that has been together for three years.
Norman is the perfect intro for the audience into the world that Ayer has impeccably built. His naïveté when he arrives is a stark contrast to the war-weary men he is now fighting alongside and once he gets into battle (which is quickly after his arrival), his horror is our horror and his fear is our palpable terror. You feel it, and you want to run home as much as he does, and that is a very good thing for Ayer’s Fury.
Lerman and Pitt forge a fantastic onscreen relationship that is part brother, part father and all mentor. Wardaddy instills the reality of war and implores his new charge to adapt or die. It’s that simple. Watching Lerman (who has the largest arc of the ensemble) change over the course of Fury is nothing short of a miracle. And it is a true testament to every soldier who has ever gone into battle and been baptized by the ravages and the carnage of war.
Ayer has brilliantly filled out his cast. LaBeouf has the role of his career and he embraces it will full panache and grabs us by the heartstrings with his every moment on screen. There’s an intense and seeping depth to his characterization that needs to be there because Ayer has painted his chaplain/gunner as the conscience of this group. His heartbeat makes Fury truly fly.
Pena clearly took his role as Gordo quite seriously. It is the rare Latino that we see that plays such a huge role in a World War II movie and he delivers a performance that would make those half a million Latino soldiers who served in WWII proud. And also, he inspires. There is a monologue at a certain point of the film, no spoilers here, where Pena gives an Oscar-worthy moment that shows what a searing screen presence he has become.
And then there’s Pitt. His Wardaddy is their leader, yes, but he is so much more. His performance, and his character, truly set the tone of Fury. There is no fury to Fury without him. Although his accent, at first, might recall a bit of his turn in Inglourious Basterds, within minutes that feeling fades into the background as we ride off into the most treacherous battles of the war with this furious crew that completely and wholeheartedly embodies the film title.
Ayer truly grabbed our attention when he wrote Training Day. Then, when he wrote and directed End of Watch, we knew a filmmaker had truly arrived. Our Fury review can proudly report that with his latest, he has shot to the top of the list of directors whose work has become appointment film viewing.
Watch End of Watch online and you’ll see what we mean. And then, run, don’t walk, and see Fury.