Fury tells the story of the 66th Armoured Regiment in during the final months of the WW2, with the tank, and in a wider sense, the film being commanded by Brad Pitt, playing battle-hardened Sergeant Collier, whose relationship with Norman Ellison (Logan Lerman) provides the backbone of the story. Ellison is a timorous young typist who is pushed to his mental limits by being dropped into a burning, violent conflict with no experience of his new position as assistant tank driver, technically or psychologically. Naturally the wide-eyed gunner feels deeply uncomfortable in his new environment, especially when he is forced to confront killing his fellow man. Collier, nicknamed ‘Wardaddy,’ exalts Ellison’s first shooting as a decisive moment, and up until that point in the film it is treated as a form of seemingly unshakable virginity. This strand in the narrative allows Ellison to grow, with the film acting as a coming-of-age story whilst simultaneously probing the relationship between these two central characters.
Fury will no doubt come under some criticism from military purists, and it does lack a form of veracity that other films in its genre crave, but in a sense this represents an irrelevant criticism of a film that never claims to act as a historical artefact. If anything, the film strives to celebrate artifice in its austere beauty and rich, cinematic aesthetic which interestingly replicates the palette used by recoloured Second World War photographs.
Ultimately however it is not the interplay between characters, nor the films look that will stand as its most notable property. Fury awkwardly and predictably refuses to embrace war as the essential evil, and instead it parrots tired rhetoric regarding the Axis powers. It’s a glorifying and self-aggrandising record of American strength and triumph that is only penetrated briefly by a rare moment of intimacy from a sparing Nazi soldier. This exchange presents a fascinating switch in power and levels the fellow soldier as a human for the first time, which is particularly successful as notions of good vs. evil represented through conflicting sides in the war have become worn, and are no longer enough to do any more than cheaply satisfy an audience. Fury would have been championed as an exceptional creation fifteen years ago, but its failure to re-interrogate the war as a universal human tragedy conforms to a lazy, existing impression of the Germans as the lone culprits, and the Allies as their victims. This reduces the films creative merits to a form of escapism, when it initially promised so much more.
Image: Columbia Pictures