In April of 1945, US Army sergeant “Wardaddy” (Brad Pitt) and his crew (Shia LeBouf, Jon Bernthal, Michael Peña) are fighting on the European front. After the death of the gunner/assistant driver of the crew’s Sherman tank, a rookie named Norman (Logan Lerman) is brought in. Norman is completely unprepared for battle, having previously been assigned as a typist.

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The crew (with the exception of Norman) has been together since the North African Campaign and has managed to escape relatively unscathed from the horrors of combat. Having reached Germany despite all odds being against them, will the crew survive to see the war’s end?

Fury was released in October 2014 and was directed by David Ayer (End of Watch). Ayer also penned the film’s script.

I had mixed expectations going into Fury. We all know by now that I love a good period film, and World War II is one of my favorite periods to study (on film, and in books both fictional and non-fiction). However, I braced myself for disappointment after going in with high expectations for another recent WWII flick, The Monuments Men, and having them crushed.

Fury and The Monuments Men should not be compared, for their only similarities are in their general subject matter (the war) and their release year (2014). If they were to be compared, however, Fury would be the clear victor in terms of quality.

This is a very well-acted film. The entire cast does a great job, even those I didn’t expect a lot from, namely Shia LeBouf (who turned out, along with Logan Lerman, to be my favorite part of the cast). We don’t get to know the characters very well at all, but the purpose of the film is more to put the horrors or war on display — to bring home the day-to-day experience of war, rather than to give us in-depth character studies.

Though the characters are thinly-written, they still seem real. And the film accomplishes its purpose of displaying the war’s ugliest sides incredibly well, thanks in no small part to Lerman’s performance. He’s full of fear as he joins the crew, but eventually turns hardened and cynical.

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I appreciate the fact that Fury does not glamorize war. This is no flag-raising, pride-inspiring, patriotic look at World War II, which is kind of refreshing. It’s very gritty and grim. The violence of the war, and the negative qualities that the war has brought out in these men are on full display.  (The way that all of the men but Pitt and Lerman’s characters treat women is just one example.)  A lot of hatred and anger lurks within these characters. They are portrayed not as heroes, but as just what they are: soldiers, set on killing as many of the enemy as possible.

The setting is also very craftily chosen. April 1945, so close to the end of the war. [MILD SPOILER] The crew that has made it through so much comes so close to making it out alive… but most of them don’t, which is suitably tragic. The ending of the film is very powerful, with Lerman’s character being lauded as a hero, while the war marches on past the bodies of his fallen comrades. He survives and is driven away (probably to safety, and medical care) but it’s clear by the look on his face that he feels anything but heroic. [END SPOILER]

Fury isn’t a perfect film. There are a few over-the-top moments, and the music is way too heavy-handed at times. It’s also quite low on re-watchability because it is so dark. But as an exploration of the horrors of war, it is a very successful film.