“Fury,” from the creator of “End of Watch” and “Sabotage,” strays from that sensibility.
Yes, the U.S. soldiers battling the final gasp of the Nazi regime are heroes to the bone. They also commit war atrocities, the kind too often associated with cinematic soldiers battling in Iraq or Afghanistan.
That isn’t Ayer’s focus with “Fury,” just window dressing to keep the film aligned with modern perspectives. At its core, the World War II film is an action epic that recalls Steven Spielberg’s “Saving Private Ryan” without living up to that film’s noble greatness.
Brad Pitt stars as Wardaddy, the leader of a depleted tank battalion burrowing deep into German territory. The second World War is nearly over, but applying the knockout blow to the Nazis won’t be easy.
Hitler charged every man, woman and child to pick up arms against Germany’s enemies, and his collapsing regime is fighting with a ferocity borne of desperation.
It’s up to Wardaddy and his loyal soldiers (Michael Pena, Shia LaBeouf, Jon Bernthal and Logan Lerman) to stick together and make it back home in one piece.
What follows is wall-to-wall combat interrupted by a sequence which recalls Quentin Tarantino’s “Inglourious Basterds,” but without that director’s verbal dexterity. Wardaddy and co. find two German women trying to stay alive, and they interact with them in ways that are both humane and troubling.
“Fury” suggests war turns even good men into savages, and those fighting on the side of the righteous aren’t immune to that effect. Ayer’s heart isn’t fully invested in the argument. “Fury” wraps with more action, sacrifice and stoicism than a half dozen war movies, allowing just enough time for people of faith to speak their peace before the guns start firing.
“Fury” feels conflicted at times, but few directors understand the bond between men like Ayer. Those final moments, when our heroes are fighting to live long enough to see the end of hostilities, reminds us of Ayer’s visceral command of the medium.
DID YOU KNOW: Writer/director David Ayer found inspiration for “Fury,” in part, by looking at thousands of World War II photographs capturing the piecemeal weaponry at the tail end of the conflict.