In April 1945, American troops have pushed through the front into Nazi Germany, but they’re outgunned by the sophisticated German weaponry. Despite extreme losses for the Americans, Wardaddy (Brad Pitt), Bible (Shia LaBeouf), Gordo (Michael Peña), Coon-Ass (Jon Bernthal), and newcomer Norman (Logan Lerman) drive their five-man tank Fury through enemy lines and make their final stand at a crossroads between an Allied camp and a troop of SS.
War is dark and hellish. You’re handed a gun and told to shoot someone else who’s been told to shoot you, and you’re supposed to move along unfazed after the fight is over. And you’re not allowed to mourn your dead because you need to keep your head in the fight. But that never really happens, does it? The human soul can’t bear that kind of weight. And that’s the underlying premise of Fury.
It’s the intensity and overwhelming brutality that makes Fury a beautiful WWII film. I know that sounds strange, but I appreciate the honesty of a war movie that doesn’t make war movie-like. It’s still cinematic, mind you, with panned shots of dead bodies in the grass around broken tanks. But there aren’t glorious speeches about standing up for one’s country or protecting the women and children back home. No, Fury is more about the loneliness and loss of one’s innocence, which we see with Logan Lerman’s character Norman, who I would argue is the true main character of this movie.
When compared to Brad Pitt’s hardened and distant Wardaddy who’s witnessed countless battles and deaths, Norman is the beacon of humanity. He’s never been in war, he’s never killed anyone, he shies away from cruelty, he’s a virgin (at least until he meets Alicia von Rittburg’s Emma in a German town)—you could say his soul is “clean.”
But you can’t leave war with a clean soul. There’s a scene where Wardaddy holds a gun in Norman’s hand and forces him to shoot a German soldier who’s been captured that addresses this very point. It’s hard to watch, especially since Norman is begging to go home or be killed in the man’s place. But in that moment, we see the dark soul-tainting moment that all soldiers face…the first kill.
Wardaddy even tells Norman not to get attached to the team at the beginning of the movie, which makes the final stand of Fury all the more depressing. Because Norman does get attached, and so do we. Though you’re rooting for them to make it out alive, you know there’s no way five men in a broken-down tank can outlast nearly 300 men. Sure, they take hundreds of Germans with them, but they don’t survive. Well, Wardaddy, Bible, Gordo, and Coon-Ass don’t. Norman, however, survives only because a young German soldier sees him hiding and decides to spare his life (Ah, parallelism).
But it’s the look on Norman’s face as he stares at Fury from the back of a truck right after he’s pulled from the tank by American soldiers that proves most chilling. Because, in that moment, you can see the incredulity, fear, numbness, and mourning left in the wake of battle that suggests Norman will never be a whole person again. And this is all happening while the soldiers rescuing him pat him on the back and tell him he’s a hero. If that’s not a dark way to end a movie, I don’t know what is. Like I said, not glamorizing by any means.
Overall, Fury is a solid WWII film that doesn’t glamorize the horrors of war with beautiful film scores or go-down-fighting speeches. Though the characters in the movie are heroic in their decision to take a stand when they’re extremely outnumbered, the movie is less of a tribute to heroism and more of a quiet reflection on the many ways war destroys the people in it. It’s beautiful and intense. A little slow at times, perhaps. But it’s certainly worth watching.
Also, the Oscar-bait game is still in the very early stages, but I could see this movie being nominated for something. Supporting actor? Screenplay? Director? Best Picture? Something…
For my radio review of Fury on “Pat & JT in the Morning,” visit this link (starts around the 26:19 mark).