MPW-95139Fury (2014).

D/W: David Ayer. DP: Roman Vasyanov. Starring: Brad Pitt/Shia LaBeouf/Logan Lerman/Michael Peña/Jon Bernthal/Jason Issacs/Jim Parrack/ Brad William Henke/Xavier Samuel.

The token war film of this award season is of course David Ayer’s Fury. Marketed and sold around lead and producer Brad Pitt, the film centers on a group of American tank soldiers deep into Nazi Germany. Virulent and grim, Fury tackles a character driven story plastered in an epic setting.

The most compelling part of the film is the group’s bravado and bond with each other. Brad Pitt’s Don leads his team with a deft fist and a rigorous voice. Although he has aged, the camera still fetishizes Pitt, even when caked in mud. Pitt and Ayer selected a great team in Michael Peña (2012 End of Watch), Jon Bernthal (AMC’s The Walking Dead), Shia LaBeouf and Logan Lerman (Noah). Lerman, who broke into the scene in 2012’s The Perks of Being a Wallflower is the newbie on the team whose fear and denial of his soldier status rings true. The real fascination is LaBeouf’s Boyd/Bible whose acting methods have been publicized and are extreme, but he delivers. Will this resurrect his career and public image? It’s really hard to tell just yet.

Of course, Pitt’s Don is not without his own glamour shot. Excused in the narrative as the reverse shot reveals extensive war wounds, Pitt’s pectorals are on full display, filling the screen. The locus on his body actually detracts from a nuanced scene that eventually recovers, but not without an eye roll or two.

All six, including Fury, of films Ayer has directed deal with extensive and oftentimes traumatic levels of violence. In this WWII context Ayer balances the internal violence between the men, including pent up aggression for the enemy, with strict decimation. His script takes us in and out of the tank enough to illustrate cause and effect without homogenizing his characters. Steven Price’s score is great, but too many musical cues force a hand out to the audience too much. I think tanks rolling over bodies is cue enough.

Ultimately, Fury is a loud, focused war film without any specific historical or locational significance. Yet its objective seems to hammer home the violence of war internally and externally regardless of place and time. But Fury‘s undoing is it’s glorification of Pitt and redeeming or even hopeful ending.

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