Emotional depth found in Michael Ayer’s “Fury”

With a stellar cast and original directing, it is no wonder that  Brad Pitt’s “Fury” is topping the box offices in the US, UK and elsewhere. But the genius of the film goes beyond the cinematography and has a deeper value than any gross earnings.

In 21st century America, we consider ourselves to live far from the horrors of war. Here in Bozeman, the biggest conflict most of us face is whether to get a pass to Big Sky or Bridger. However, gruesome struggles exist in every corner of the globe, domestically and abroad. Hollywood notoriously glorifies or criticizes wars, rather capriciously, leaving audiences with a sour taste of one-sidedness. There are, however, heart wrenching productions such as “Saving Private Ryan” and brilliantly brazen films like “Inglorious Basterds” which examine the implications and underlying struggles that played their course in the World War II, which is generally regarded to be its own sub-genre in the film industry.

Michael Ayer’s “Fury” is a significant addition to this group of movies but in a way that is new and original. It follows the story of an American crew that lives, fights, and dies in a Sherman Tank. Tank warfare is often an unexplained facet of history, which is surprising as it had a huge role on all fronts, especially the European Theatre. In the film, the crew is hardened and banded together. They have seen the atrocities and horrific elements of the war, fighting in North Africa, France, Belgium, and in Germany. After reeling from a loss of one of the original member of the crew, they must deal with the greenhorn and innocent addition: Norm, who was supposed to be a typist in the Army command, not crammed into a tank on the front lines.

The role of the young and inexperienced recruit was played by Logan Lerman, who starred in “Percy Jackson and the Olympians”. His performance was, in a word, original. Being a college-age youth myself, I related directly to the character and was just as shocked, appalled and disturbed at every explosion, shot and death as the crew overcame every struggle, both physically and emotionally. Lerman interacted interestingly with the tank commander, Brad Pitt, and the mentor-mentee relationship of the characters had complexity that Freud would drool over.

Casting in the film was spot on. Pitt played with a masculinity that blanketed his true fears and feelings. This duality was always in play, a dynamic force as the story progressed. In addition to Pitt’s strongman leadership role, the other crew members in the cramped Sherman Tank represented character archetypes of the American war effort at the time.

Michael Peña was a Mexican-American soldier who drove the vehicle; Jon Bernthal played the part of a southern man who has lost his humanity and Shia LaBeouf was a believer who understood his role in the war through a Christian paradigm. All three of these supporting roles were interesting and unique but could have been developed further.

The film was almost a stream of consciousness as the crew coped with each challenge, failure and success. Although the final battle scene was as ridiculous as LaBeouf’s mustache, the film as a whole illuminated the experiences the men had fighting on the ground and is valuable in understanding the tragedy and atrocity of war. The action scenes and special effects are gruesomely stupefying, making “Fury” worth watching whether you are looking for simple entertainment or to increase your understanding of war.