In one end of the cinematic spectrum, we have people who look down on Steven Spielberg for being over sentimental and generally schmaltzy. I am not one of those people. Unlike David Ayer’s Fury, Spielberg always has a general plot to keep characters and the narrative moving. When comparing this new release to one of Spielberg’s Oscar winning war films, 1998’s Saving Private Ryan (and their are some comparisons), we see that not everybody can pull of a war film with just crazy special effects and sounds. Fury makes Ryan look like the end all and be all of cinematic wartime gold. Even though Ryan is in fact a pretty great film, it’s near perfect when compared to Ayer’s plotless, somewhat underwhelming war time drama that left me kind of cold as I left the cinema.
My main issue with Fury is that I feel like most of the five main characters lacked enough depth to be completely fully developed. With a runtime of more then two hours, you would expect that as we are confined inside their tank we are able to learn intimate details about each character’s lives and personalities. We didn’t get this with the film. Instead we had hours worth of wartime footage – things blowing up, flesh being burnt and nostalgic lines that try to make every American solider look like a supreme hero.
The drama centers around Brad Pitt’s “Wardaddy” character, the leader of the tank called Fury and all the men who work inside of her. As he trains the new guy, the young Logan Lerman as Norman, we are brought into World War II Germany with all its gruesomeness and antics. Along for the ride are three other soldiers played by Shia LaBeouf, Michael Pena and Jon Bernthal who have been fighting with Wardaddy from the very beginning and are in a sort of “brotherhood” with their fearless leader that they’d follow him anywhere. Except of course, making Norman feel accepted until the very last act of the film.
Brad Pitt’s career is really something to be in awe of. From being the pretty boy that Thelma and Louise (1991) went gaga for, to the 90s romantic leading man, to David Fincher’s golden boy, and now Oscar winning producer and acclaimed actor, it’s really quite hard for Pitt to do wrong (especially in recent years) . In his Wardaddy role, he doesn’t disappoint. He holds up his leading role well, but it isn’t challenging to the slightest. He could do this with his eyes closed, and though it isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it isn’t something to write home for as well.
The other men in the tank are comprised of really talented character actors who unfortunately goes to waste amongst the explosions that the film has to offer. LaBeouf, with all his eccentricities throws the vanity out the door, but his paper-thin character leaves the viewers completely in the dark and wishing he had more to work with. Logan Lerman, on the other hand, who was fantastic in 2012’s The Perks of Being a Wallflower, brings back a shadow of that performance and puts it in the 1945 setting. This type of character works well for him, but then again these characters had nothing to offer the audience something new. They weren’t bad at acting at all, but there was simply nothing that we haven’t seen in a war movie before.
The sound design is great, but you’d expect it to be because it’s a war movie with a lot of things happening. Plus, David Ayer has proven his technicality in this genre in the past. The cinematography, though pretty solid has been done ever since I saw Scarlet O’Hara war time silhouette in 1939’s Gone with the Wind for the first time (I’m not that old, but it’s the film that seriously got me thinking about cinema). People who do wartime films have to remember that showing their characters in silhouette doesn’t always automatically mean “fantastic job”. The film photography was crisp, but it’s been done better before and that was in Jarhead (2005).
To say the least, Fury was a big disappointment for me. Not because it’s a bad movie, but because I expected more from such a promising cast and director. The film is certainly flawed but it has its great moments. If you want a lot of noise, and impressively done war time sequences that Fury is certainly a movie that you should check out. Everyone tried their best, but this was just a case of everything not coming together perfectly in the end. Not bad at all for entertainment value, but it’s potential was utterly missed. I have mixed feelings towards it, basically.