World War II, as we know, is the best war, because all the good little countries of the world put aside their differences to go stomp all over an unambiguously evil enemy. That being said, if you have the good judgement to set your story during the war, it generally means that there’s a whole mess of ready-made context, meaning that you don’t have to justify anything the heroes do. The pitfall, of course, is that you have to work extra hard to make the good guys not come across as repugnantly patriotic, glory-boy assholes. Fury, to it’s credit, takes full advantage of the myriad Nazi-killing possibilities, and tells a story that, though simplistic and worn, is still a good bit of fun to watch.
Fury comes to us from director David Ayer, formerly responsible for the fairly decent End of Watch, as well as the hyper-violent Sabotage of recent memory. A veteran of the macho action movie genre, Ayer has expressed his ambition in recent years by focusing his attention of more character based pieces as opposed to the pulpy action flicks that make up the bulk of his résumé. At heart though, Ayer is still a dyed-in-the-wool director of action films, and Fury, likewise, is essentially a action movie with some interesting character moments threaded across a cohesive narrative.
Acting is pretty strong across the board here with Brad Pitt in the leading role, supported by Shia LeBeouf, Michael Peña, and the always excellent Joe Bernthal. Even LeBeouf, who has spent the better part of the last few years trying to live down his participation in the Transformers franchise. With a seasoned veteran like Pitt in the starring role, who played a very similar role in Quentin Tarantino’s 2009 film Inglorious Basterds, it’s no great leap to assume that he was instrumental in assuring that the members of his supporting cast were performing to the best of their abilities.
The fact that Fury has become a critical success is due in large part to its retelling of a tale we’ve all heard before, albeit in a fresh an interesting way. Indeed, the general setup is nothing more than the typical war movie trope—namely an ill-provisioned heroic force facing an enemy that vastly outnumbers them—but the film shines when it comes down to the technical execution and pacing of that very simple idea. Likewise, the characters and interpersonal relationships between them are archetypical and a little cliché, but the sheer level of excitement and dramatic tension that Ayer weaves into the narrative keeps the audience fully invested for the duration.
While the film is undeniably hyper-violent and uses the placement and portrayal of that violence to great effect, it almost feels as though the film is trying to hide behind that violence in an effort to distract the audience from the rather scarce plot. Admittedly, it mostly succeeds, and the more incongruous and slightly more unbelievable of the character-building sequences placed in the middle of the film are easily glossed over and mostly spring to mind in retrospect, after the film has ended.
Despite a plot that remains a little wanting, Fury is an incredibly fun and expertly paced action-packed character drama, and though there are certainly tropes and characters that we’ve long since been accustomed to, the sheer adrenaline rush of watching Pitt and company steamroll over some Nazis is well worth the price of admission.
Rating: 4 out of 5