If there’s one thing that Fury does well, it’s depict a terrifying vision of the horrors of war. Set in WWII, this is an unflinching and brutal film: men are stabbed in the eyes, shot at numerous times and frequently burnt alive. It is far from a pleasant watch.
What’s more terrifying, though, is the abhorrent characterisation. The plot follows an American tank crew journeying through Nazi Germany as they gleefully and sadistically pummel the enemy with machine gun fire. Almost every man on screen is motivated by testosterone-fuelled machismo, manly posturing substituted for deep acting. The claustrophobic camerawork inside the tank forces us to question the morality of each flimsy, stereotypical character: the religious man, the violent man, the token Mexican. Brad Pitt’s crew leader Don Collier at least shows some emotion and fragility away from the rest of the crew, but it’s hardly a complex role. The generic performances would be bearable if the actors stopped persistently mumbling their lines. They are simply bullies who see murdering the “mother f*cking Nazis” as sport.
The audience witnesses the narrative through the eyes of Norman (Logan Lerman): a young, naïve boy newly assigned as assistant driver on the tank. He is a good person, a conduit for our reasoned morality who refuses to pull the trigger and treats women with kindness. Yet this is a film about how war turns good men into monsters. We are meant to question who the real enemy is – the predominantly faceless, silhouetted Nazis, or the monsters the camera forces us to confront. Soon (too quickly) even Norman is swept up in the war, swearing and firing with abandon. This may make sense thematically, but narratively it leaves us with nobody to sympathise with. For these men, killing is “the best job I ever had”. You may start to wish the Nazis were winning.
Mostly, this is a film that tells us how to feel. It’s emotionally charged with an eminently quotable script and a cast of hateful characters. We have no choice but to dislike every man on the screen, to feel guilty about the atrocities that occurred. This is not a subtly thought-provoking film; this is a film that explicitly presents us with grim violence to funnel our thoughts down a specific path. Steven Price’s emotive score only fuels the fire. Over the course of the film, we become desensitised to the sheer amount of brutality but we never warm to the characters.
Director David Ayer proves his worth with the action sequences that ensure Fury is an exhilarating, visceral and tense watch, but it lacks the developed characters to hold the emotional weight of the narrative. “You’re a hero buddy” Norman is told at the end of the film. You’ll feel like one for sitting through it.
Watch: Fury is released on 22nd October.