When it comes to war films made in the last 20 years or so, there has been an immense concentration on making the experience as real as possible. Whether the film ends up being great (“Saving Private Ryan,” “Letters from Iwo Jima”) or mediocre (“Pearl Harbor,” “Stalingrad”), the filmmakers have tried to bring the grittiness of battle to the screen to put you right there in the middle of the action. Writer/director David Ayer’s “Fury” is no exception to this trend. Taking place in April 1945, the film follows a group of five soldiers who are part of a tank team tasked with capturing town after town as they make their way across Germany, doing their part to help put an end to World War II. Most of them, including the team leader, Don “Wardaddy” Collier (Brad Pitt), have been together for a while and are quite used to doing their job.
However, when they lose a man on their latest mission, they are given a typist, Norman Ellison (Logan Lerman), as a replacement. Norman has no experience with this kind of work, having never even seen the inside of a tank before, but Don makes sure he gets used to it rather quickly, for if he doesn’t, it could cost men their lives. In no time at all, he seems to become a pretty good member of the team, helping them fight their way through several enemy encounters, but soon they find themselves faced with greater numbers than ever before, putting them to a challenge that may bring their successful battle streak to an end.
If nothing else, “Fury” has the look of the modern war film nailed down. The picture is draped in drab colors, adding in enough dirt and grit to make it look like the messy situation it was. However, having the look is one thing, having substance is quite another. Unfortunately that’s where Ayer has dropped the ball with his little war picture, trading character development and an engaging plot for nothing more than a string of loud battles tied together with some quick and dull banter between the flat characters. Ayer wants the film to have meaning, throwing these men into an exceedingly dangerous situation (one of which has no experience) in which they could die any second, but he’s simply unable to bring any life to the story or characters, leaving us with a realistic production that contains little more than stand-in characters, gunshots, and explosions.
To the film’s further detriment, it goes on for far too long at 135 minutes, which makes it even more surprising that he wouldn’t have taken the time to develop the characters to the point where the audience could get attached. By the time the ending finally comes around, there’s simply no reason to care who lives and who dies. “Fury” had a decent amount of potential to tell a pretty riveting story, but with so many flaws and its lack of essential pieces, it’s hardly a surprise that, even with all its sound and fury, it hardly registers as a whimper.
“Fury” may have aced the gritty look of World War II, but right along with it, we get a 2.40:1, 1080p transfer that is very dark, making it rather hard to see in many scenes. Perhaps it was just a result of the production design and lighting, but even so, a little work could have been done to brighten the image. On the other hand, the 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio is fantastic, giving you every gunshot and explosion in perfect clarity. Overall, there was room for improvement, but it’s still very much watchable.
Deleted, Extended, and Alternate Scenes: Nearly an hour’s worth of deleted scenes that, much like the film itself, aren’t really worth going through.
Director’s Combat Journal: An interesting look behind the scenes at making the film, featuring lots of commentary from writer/director David Ayer.
Armored Warriors: The Real Men Inside the Shermans: The best extra included here is this fascinating collection of interviews with actual World War II veterans, who share their stories of how they got involved and what they did during the war.
Taming the Beast: How to Drive, Fire, and Shoot Inside a 30-Ton Tank: A look behind the scenes that concentrates on the tanks used in the film. It’s fairly informative, but not particularly vital viewing.
Blood Brothers: A collection of interviews with the cast and crew in which they discuss making the film. This is another extra that’s somewhat interesting, but it doesn’t go into all that much depth.
David Ayer’s “Fury” has a great look and a talented ensemble, but unfortunately character development and substance are placed on the backburner in favor of a film that is nothing more than a series of loud and monotonous tank battles. When the characters become secondary to the battle scenes, it becomes all too painfully obvious that things aren’t going very well, leaving the audience with nothing and no one to get attached to throughout a film that has an overly-long runtime of 135 minutes. The look of a film can get you pretty far, but without the vital elements underneath, it’s all for naught.