As far as I can tell, the events in “Fury” take place within a day.
If that’s true, man, what a day.
In the twilight days of World War II, Norman (Logan Lerman) is a fresh-faced private straight out of basic training, where he learned to do clerical work — and is, for some unknown reason, assigned to a tough-as-nails tank crew who just lost one of their own for the first time.
Almost immediately, he hits the road with the crew of the tank: Bible Swan (Shia LaBeouf), Gordo Garcia (Michael Peña) and Grady Travis (Jon Bernthal), all led by the tough father-figure Sgt. Collier (Brad Pitt).
Within hours, Norman, manning one of the front guns, flinches at the trigger, and a German child soldier takes out the tank in front of him. The horrors of war increase as they charge across a field fired upon by Panzer tanks and entrenched soldiers. After taking a town from insurgents, Norman meets and falls for a native, Emma (Alicia von Rittberg), but their romance is short-lived.
The Worst Day Ever culminates when the crew of the tank, dubbed “Fury,” heads off to claim a strategically pivotal crossroads — a goal made even tougher when they roll over a mine and break a tread, making them a lame duck. And up the road, the hundreds-deep German army approaches.
Most stories — books, movies, whatever — that start in the middle of something rely on a newcomer to serve as the introduction to an existing concept. In that respect, having us follow along Norman as he is baptized by the fires of war is nothing new. “Fury,” though, does it better than most.
The tank crew and Collier come across as almost inhumanly hardened, but by bits and pieces they start to gain humanity. An early bond between Norman and Collier makes the rest of the crew look like a bunch of animals, but gradually they, too, become more fleshed out. Their relationship, galvanized by life and death, develops to a point that would take at least weeks under normal conditions.
Norman’s perspective of war ages by months within the span of the film, too. The first tank blown up is horrifyingly gruesome, and Norman’s first kill is a traumatic experience for everyone involved. But gradually, the horror of war lessens. The amount of blood and carnage, if anything, increases during the span of the movie, but he, and we, become desensitized to it.
It’s actually really fascinating to see how it’s done. It almost seems like it panders in its message, but at the same time, you find yourself trudging down the path even as you scoff. The last line, which I considered quoting but will skip so no one can say I gave anything away, is hollow and chilling in its simplicity.
“Fury” unquestionably earns its R rating with violence and language. As you might expect from any movie trying to really evoke the nightmares of battle, everything is f-this or f-that, and what’s a war movie without a few disembodied limbs or burning bodies? And yes, it is obvious at a certain point how it will end, but for some reason you can’t look away. Or, at least, I couldn’t.
It’s a grim film, but it is unquestionably gripping. Even as it shocks its audience and dares them to look away, it masterfully gives nuance and perspective to war and takes viewers along on the ride of someone else’s life.
Time: 134 minutes