The first thing you’ll notice watching “Fury” is the constant aura of darkness, fog, and anonymity that surrounds everything. Rather than take the perspective of a team focused U.S. Army in WWII, the focus is on the single Sherman tank crew that doesn’t have any sense of grandeur with the war. “Wardaddy” (Brad Pitt) tells a fresh GI to not get close to anyone early on, presumably because of the anguish of losing friends, and so there aren’t other soldiers who get a face in that hazy aura as they fight and die. They are just faceless bodies being moved about to an already known conclusion. They are beaten and scarred, and just want to survive.
There aren’t any serious contemporary WWII films about tank combat, so its interesting to get the perspective from the hell that the crew of a Sherman tank had to go through. What sets this apart from other WWII films thematically is its focus on the war’s end. As the start of the movie explains, an American Sherman tank is basically a tin can compared to some of the German tanks, and Sherman crews died in huge numbers as they spearheaded their way through Germany. This mortality makes every action of the crew that much more desperate, but with an added sense of futility. The war is over from a strategic standpoint, but the Americans still have to die slogging from town to town fighting German SS elements who have mobilized civilians to fight.
And this is why the tank of the crew and movie are both named “Fury”. They are angry more than anything. Bradd Pitt, Shia LaBeaouf, Michael Pena, and Jon Bernthal as the hardened tank crew do a great job of conveying that emotional depth and frustration, which they allude to being in year three of, in the war from Africa to Germany. The lessons of the crew are bestowed upon the new guy of the crew played by Logan Lerman, which then extrapolate into grand moral points about war, history, and death. These themes are the film’s strong points. The solid combat of the film is inglorious grit and violence; its dreary and drumming like the Sherman tank itself. Just another day’s work.
What “Fury” does best is capture the essence of what war really is by leaving you on a dull somber note: brutal. Few films set out to do that, let alone do it successfully. While non-dialogue intensive, the few things that are said are meaningful commentaries of camaraderie. The tank combat is an interesting addition to the genre, but it does not reach the quality that it sets out to be as a mostly raw, grit combat film. It does a lot of things really well, and tries to be a war classic like “Saving Private Ryan” in a lot of ways, but it doesn’t quite break the point from being good to fantastic.