Film Review: Fury (★★★½)

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fury_ver6You want some intensity, heart palpitations, and just sheer pulse-pounding action?  You don’t need to look much further than David Ayer‘s monumental war film “Fury” with an all-star cast that includes Brad Pitt, Logan Lerman, Shia LeBeouf, Michael Pena, and Jon Bernthal.  In the vein of any edge-of-your-seat thrill ride experienced over the past few years, “Fury” ignites a passionate look at the brotherhood of war and the beauty that can peak its head out every now and again.  Honest, raw, and vividly shot, Ayer’s war epic stands as one of the best surprises the year has offered.

With elements of Steven Spielberg’s “Saving Private Ryan” and a “dinner scene” that would put “Django Unchained” to absolute shame, “Fury” is full of wit, charm, and affection.  The film takes place in April 1945 Germany.  A five-man crew of a Sherman tank, lead by a battle-hardened sergeant named Wardaddy, take on near-impossible odds to hit the heart of the opposition towards the end of the war.  When a rookie infantry member joins the group, they will learn several things about each other, and ultimately themselves, in the face of a motherless war.

How can you start anywhere else, without beginning with the writer and director David Ayer?  Already gaining a legion of fans following “End of Watch,” the impressive filmmaker takes on a new realm of storytelling that feels intimate, and consequently real.  We spend over 60% of the film, inside the belly of a mechanical beast.  Paul Greengrass executed a similar take with “Captain Phillips” last year in the lifeboat, and Ayer illustrates the same quality that is sure to be appreciated and loved.  From a directorial standpoint, Ayer is unmatched by any action filmmaker that has hit screens this year.  He owns every shot, every emotion, and every ounce of pride that the cast and crew exhibit.  He controls the ship (or in this case TANK) with an effortless ease.  There will be no doubt that this is a testosterone driven film, and the average movie guy will be screaming from the rooftops in an action-packed blissful state.  However, there is an emotional core that is so very present in every scene, even when its ugly, that it allows an accessibility to every movie-goer.  You won’t find a more genuine depiction of war since “The Hurt Locker.”

From a writing standpoint, Ayer puts forth a solidly valiant effort, with minor missteps along the way.  I would have wanted less clichéd behaviors from certain characters at times, even some richer dialogue.  Ayer constructs his story with precision.  He absolutely knows when, what, and how he wants his characters to react.  Every action feels fluid, and moving towards an ultimate resolution.  He finds the beats of a scene quite well and at over two hours, the film moves like a freight train.   You never feel a second.  I do feel that Ayer missed out on some opportunities for a “real” breakthrough in a character, or a revealing quality of a character that didn’t feel like I’ve seen it before.  There were moments that were predictable but in no way do they bog down the overall experience of “Fury.”

Fury_imageA slick and magnetic ensemble are present on screen.  This is one of the best performances that Brad Pitt has ever done.  Continuously pushing himself as an actor, his depth and vigor are both alluring and hypnotic to watch.  The real breakout star of the film is none other than Logan Lerman.  Already exhibiting an awards worthy performance in Stephen Chbosky’s “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” over two years ago, if there was any doubt that this young man is one of the most exciting actors to watch, they should be laid to rest.  Lerman is sensational from front to end.   Calling back some young actors that have played in war films and have stood out (I kept coming back to Jeremy Davies’ unrequited work in “Saving Private Ryan”), he plainly steals the movie from underneath every actor’s eye.  Lerman’s work is an awards-caliber performance that the Academy Awards should not hesitate to recognize.

Co-stars Jon Bernthal, Michael Pena, and especially Shia LeBeouf all have individual moments to shine.  Bernthal is a tornado of frenzy rage, taking out everything in his path.  LeBeouf calls back to his stunning work in “A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints” from nearly a decade ago.  Quietly powerful but loudly present.  Pena is your most underwritten and cliched character, but someone of Pena’s talent ability, attempts to rise above in nearly every instance.

“Fury” has an abundance of technical highlights.  Recent Oscar-winning composer Steven Price, puts forth another emotionally resonate score that stands out.  Cinematographer Roman Vasyanov captures shots of anxiety and concentration that only a master could accomplish.  Film Editor Dody Dorn, who’s crowning work will always be Christopher Nolan’s “Memento,” should be commended for making a 135 minute war epic, feel like a fleeting anxiety attack.

Fury” is an emotional extremity.  You don’t get films like this that both operate on an accessible entertainment level for all audiences and still remain awards-caliber.  It’s a tremendous achievement, unforgettable, and one of the richly rewarding films of the year.

Fury” opens in theaters on October 17 and is being distributed by Sony Pictures.