Fury movie review (London Film Festival)

Fury green light

A particularly ugly iteration of “war is hell”… and I mean that as a compliment. This is a film that is deeply unpleasant and near genius.
I’m “biast” (pro): I’m a big fan of David Ayer

I’m “biast” (con): nothing

(what is this about? see my critic’s minifesto)

Basically, war turns even the most decent of men into monsters. It’s not a theme that hasn’t been explored before, but David Ayer’s Fury is a particularly ugly iteration of it… and I mean that as a compliment. Skies are gray, the ground is muddy — this might be the muddiest movie I’ve ever seen — and everywhere is blood, pain, and desperation. There’s not much of a story, just an episodic series of nasty, brutal engagements for the crew of a U.S. Army tank nicknamed Fury and commanded by Sergeant Don “Wardaddy” Collier (Brad Pitt: The Counsellor), as they push deeper into Germany in April 1945. They guess that the war must be over soon — the Germans have resorted to putting too-big uniforms on scared kids, and guns into their hands — but it’s only the fact that we watching know that it will be over soon, and that the Nazis will lose, that allows some respite from atmosphere of relentless hopelessness Ayer (Sabotage) immerses us in.

For we see how quickly the new guy, Norm (Logan Lerman: Noah) — just transferred from the typing pool and “not trained to machine-gun dead bodies” (as he is ordered to do at one point) — becomes as hard and as cold as his colleagues, which also include born-again “Bible” (Shia LaBeouf: Nymphomaniac), repulsive “Coon-Ass” (Jon Bernthal: The Wolf of Wall Street), and “Gordo” (Michael Peña: American Hustle), probably the closest to normal of all of them before Norm arrived. There are images here that are among some of the most terrible I’ve ever seen onscreen; one will be seared in my brain forever, I suspect. And then there is the extraordinary scene that challenges our notion of what constitutes a “good guy” both onscreen and in real life, in which Collier is shown to be so far gone ethically and morally that he either doesn’t realize or doesn’t care that he is being utterly menacing toward two German civilian women (Alicia von Rittberg [Barbara] and Anamaria Marinca [Europa Report]), and may in fact believe himself to be behaving in a chivalrous way toward them.

The sneaking complexity in what appears to be stark, unsentimental spareness — I particularly like Collier’s query of Bible, “Do you think Jesus loves Hitler?” — lingers. It’s deeply unpleasant, far more upsetting than I was expecting (I sobbed through quite a bit of the film), and near genius.

viewed during the 58th BFI London Film Festival

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