History is violent. It’s these sagacious words from Brad Pitt’s Sergeant Don ‘Wardaddy’ Collier that perfectly summarise Hollywood cinema’s transition from the glorifying portrayals of war to the bleak, realism of recent years. History is violent, so why should war films gloss over this? Stephen Spielberg championed the move with Saving Private Ryan, and now Fury has continued the theme.
There are no grandiose battles to be seen here; instead Writer and Director David Ayer focuses on the smaller conflicts that occurred on a regular basis during the closing days of World War Two. While this is a bold move on Ayer’s part, it does lead to some serious pacing issues as, much like the tank that the film takes its name from, the plot just trudges along from one encounter to another, with a brief stop-over in a German town half-way through that goes on a tad too long and doesn’t really aid the overall story.
Naturally, Ayer does not shy away from showing the horrors of war with brutal honesty. The stark visuals of violence are shocking, with the audience treated to scenes of decapitation via artillery shell and skulls being crushed under tank treads that will make even the most hardened individual wince at least once.
This is all emphasised by the audience’s gateway to the conflict, new recruit Norman Ellis (Logan Lerman). He too struggles to deal with what he is witnessing, but come the end, he is effectively desensitised to the carnage unfolding before him, much like the audience. Although that could be because Ayer trades his focus on scenes of gore for the claustrophobic atmosphere of the tank in the final battle. Sadly, this means that the character development comes all too quickly and without much warning.
However, it does make Ellis one of the more fleshed-out characters. The other being Pitt’s Sergeant Collier, who combines the psychopathic tendencies of Aldo Raine from Inglorious Basterds with the care and wisdom of Tom Hank’s Captain Miller from Saving Private Ryan, yet somehow, Brad Pitt’s natural charisma allows the character to work. Everyone else, on the other hand, is nothing more than a stock-character that has been seen a hundred times before, meaning that the end result is less than memorable.