It’s exciting to see Shyamalan on such confident footing once more, all these years later.
Although many commentators will no doubt immediately compare the new WW II epic "Fury" to Quentin Tarantino's brilliant "Inglourious Basterds," largely because both films star Brad Pitt as a heavily-scarred, drawling Army man leading his men in a quest to kill as many Nazis as possible, it is actually closer in tone to a straightforward and un-ironic guys-on-a-mission tale along the lines of "The Dirty Dozen" or "Where Eagles Dare," with a heavy dollop of gruesome bloodletting depicting the true horrors of armed conflict that have been de rigueur for the war movie genre in the wake of "Saving Private Ryan." It may sound like an interesting approach for a modern war film, but it doesn't take long to realize that writer-director David Ayer has spent more time adding flesh to his battlefield sequence than he has in fleshing out the screenplay. The end result, while technically impressive, is a dramatically bloodless affair, despite the gallons of gore on display.
Set during the waning days of the war, with Allied forces marching through Germany on the way to Berlin and the Nazis pulling out all the stops—including putting kids into battle and hanging those who refuse to fight—to stop them. Pitt plays Sgt. Don "Wardaddy" Collier, the commander of a five-man Sherman tank crew that has been together since North Africa, and who he is determined to see survive to the end of the war. His men include the religious-minded gunner Bible (Shia LaBeouf), the Hispanic lead driver Gordo (MIchael Peña) and the borderline scumbag mechanic Coon-Ass (Jon Berenthal). As the story opens, they have just lost their second driver in battle, and at their next stop, they take on a new man in Norman Ellison (Logan Lerman), a wet-behind-the-ears type who has only been in the war for a few weeks as a typist and who has never fired a gun before, let alone served in combat.
Needless to say, the other members of the Fury crew are not impressed with the new guy and are even less so when he winds up barfing all over the place while cleaning up the blood in the cab left by his predecessor. Things get worse when Norman chokes during his first confrontation in a move that leads to the grisly death of another tank commander in their column. Eventually, he proves his mettle and begins to mesh with the team at last and Wardaddy even takes him out during a brief stopover to an impromptu rendezvous with a couple of German women (Anamaria Marinca and Alicia von Rittberg) to relieve him of his virginity. After an ambush that wipes out the other tanks that they are traveling with, Fury finally breaks down, but before it can be repaired and the five men are placed in the seemingly impossible position of trying to single-handedly stave off the arrival of 300 SS troops.
Ayer is best known for writing and/or directing such gritty cop dramas as "Training Day," "End of Watch" and this year's brutally idiotic Arnold Schwarzenegger vehicle "Sabotage," and, with this film, he takes a giant leap forward in terms of scope and ambition, but only generates middling results. When it comes to the details, Ayer excels—he convincingly evokes the look and feel of this period in history and also does a decent job of suggesting how a quintet of people who would likely never even acknowledge each other in other circumstances can forge together into a single working unit in times of duress. The action sequences are also nicely staged, with one battle in which the smaller but faster Sherman races around to fight off a larger but slower German Tiger tank offering some genuine thrills.