Director David Ayer has had quite the year, so much so that I am beginning to notice things about him. First of all, he is quite fearless, a first-time director who is able to make a convincing film with Christian Bale as the lead deserves some respect. Earlier this year, he gave us "Sabotage," people like to hate on this movie, but I found it to be a small treasure. It was a fantastic ensemble and I can't remember Arnold Schwarzenegger was so electrifying onscreen. With "Fury," Ayer proves again that he can work with ease with an all-star ensemble, and he is quite good in creating intense, grim action sequences. Ayer is set-up to direct "Suicide Squad" for WB as apart of the DC Cinematic Universe. A movie which will revolve around a group of supervillains being forced to work for the government or die. If Ayer is at the top of his game, it will be a home-run for the studio.
"Fury" isn't "Saving Private Ryan," or "Patton," or even "Apocalypse Now." This is not a war movie about heroes. David Ayer takes the audience and plunges them into the ugly filth of war. When we think of WWII, we think of the Greatest Generation who fought it. But let's be real, war is war and it is never pretty. "Fury" very much impersonates that.
It's April 1945, and America is slowly yet systematically cleaning up Germany. The film focuses on a tank crew, led by Don "Wardaddy" Collier (Brad Pitt) a man who has been hardened by war. At the beginning of the film, he looses a crew member and Norman (Logan Lerman) takes his place. Norman was trained as a typewriter, and has never killed anyone ever. Wardaddy, along with his crew, are all dangerous killers and they look down upon Norman at first. Wardaddy's crew includes "Bible" (Shia LaBeouf), "Gordo" (Michael Pena) and "Coon-Ass" (Jon Bernthal), and they make one dangerous crew. The film focuses on them as the world enters the last phase of World War II.
As demonstrated in "Sabotage," Ayer has a keen eye for action. The film is very much alive during the war sequences. Ayer creates something that is brutal, harrowing and intense. It has a sharp visual style that lures you into the carnage. Once again, Ayer has no problem drawing the very best performances out of a wonderful ensemble. Pitt, Lerman, LaBeouf, Bernthal, and Pena all do marvelous work here, and while LaBeouf, Bernthal and Pena play respected clichés, they are allowed to turn on the charm and make them more than types. Even Jason Isaacs and Scott Eastwood show up and create memorable characters. For a guy who didn't begin his career in directing, that is a remarkable feat.
I have to be honest and say that the film really slows down during its dramatic parts. The film's main stronghold is the struggle between Wardaddy and Norman, and how Wardaddy tries to turn Norman into a killing machine. We have seen this type of storytelling before, and "Fury" doesn't display anything new or unique. For the first time in his career, it felt as if Ayer really had awards on his mind when he set out to make this movie. It shows, it shows badly. Even though Pitt is good in the film, it doesn't help that he is shamelessly channeling the character he played in "Inglorious Basterds" and doesn't try to hide at all, even down to his similar accent.
I also think that some of Ayers story threads never really add up. There is a long stretch of film that takes place during the invasion of a German town. There is a scene that involves Wardaddy, Norman, and two German women. For a little while, it felt as if Ayer took the film into an entirely unneeded, very creepy direction. Thankfully, things never get out of hand or weird, but it was a strange choice and it was hard not to miss.
Ayer maybe turning into an exciting new talent in the world of action. I particularly like that "Fury" feeling different to most war movies and that he took his war story into a different direction. But he needs to continue to make movies for him, if he does that, he will succeed over and over again. There is quite a bit to like about "Fury," and I hope Ayer can work on this films strengths, and shake off its minor weaknesses.
FINAL GRADE: B-