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Fury Reviews

There isn’t much new in David Ayer’s WWII film Fury, which follows the missions of a five-man Sherman tank crew led by literally and figuratively war-scarred Sgt. Don Collier (Brad Pitt) as they make their way through Germany in 1945. The Allies are making steady progress deep into Deutschland, but the threat of danger has increased as Hitler has ordered every citizen to help defend the homeland. Collier, who goes by the nickname “Wardaddy,” oversees a tight-knit group that has been together since fighting in Africa at the beginning of the war. The Gospel-quoting “Bible” (Shia LaBeouf), the tough-as-nails “Coon Ass” (Jon Bernthal), and the talkative “Gordo” (Michael Peña) swear they wouldn’t want to fight for anybody else. When they lose the fifth member of their crew, nervous young Norman Ellison (Logan Lerman), a trained typist with all of two months of military service, is assigned to be the squad’s newest gunner. The soft-spoken, morally unsullied Ellison is given a quick education in the realities of war by Collier and his new band of brothers, though he does eventually discover that he shares with his sergeant a desire to hold on to as much of his humanity as he can. Fury marks a point of growth for Ayer as a writer and director. His cop film End of Watch utilized GoPro cameras with flair and had wonderful central performances, but the narrative was lacking. His follow-up, Sabotage, flipped this by having a great story that was muddled by thinly drawn characters. This time around, he’s crafted a pair of engaging central heroes and plotted out a story line that remains unrelentingly -- but never overwhelmingly -- tense. Early on, Ayer makes the picture look like a typical men-on-a-mission movie. While he stays true to the conventions of that subgenre, he manages to avoid the pitfall of making Fury -- the name comes from the moniker of the tank the characters spend much of the movie in -- an exercise in rah-rah, feel-good heroics. The violence depicted is uncompromising, making this the furthest thing from a recruitment film. This is a world with very little moral high ground, yet the picture explores the possibility that not all of these characters are as damaged as they appear. After a series of battle sequences directed with admirable professionalism, there’s a long scene in which Collier and Ellison try to have a civilized dinner with a pair of German women living in a town the Allies have just secured. The two men attempt to feel something approaching normalcy, but it’s a charade because their presence in the ladies’ home creates an undercurrent of menace -- something Ayer emphasizes when the rest of the guys, drunk and looking to let off some steam, arrive. The movie plays like an attempt to fuse Steven Spielberg’s Oscar-winning Saving Private Ryan with Brian De Palma’s Casualties of War, the latter another film that wanted to show how war destroys innocence. That’s not to say that Ayer has Spielberg or De Palma’s visual sense, although he does include a brilliantly edited fight against a Tiger tank. Fury may not reach the cinematic heights of its two closest influences, but it does offer a sober-minded response to the heroic martyrdom on display in box-office hits like Lone Survivor. It’s exactly the kind of genre movie that feels right for a country that’s been at war for more than a decade.