War is arguably the trickiest topic to tackle in filmmaking: because perhaps more than any other genre, war films can really wind people up.
Historical accuracy is important and is the most common aspect which set people off, and rightly so: but at the same time, we don’t want a dry history lesson. Similarly we want strong characters which we can both be in awe of and sympathise with: we want to see the horror and violence of war and the effects it has on these people, yet we don’t want glorified hero-worship and propaganda. To put it simply, it’s a balancing act.
Recently I was disappointed by America Sniper because it took what was a controversial topic, and diluted it down: it was well made and well acted yes, but in the end it was little more than a Box Office copout.
Fury however ticks most of the right boxes, and though I would shy away from placing it in the very top-bracket, it is still a very good film.
Set during the final months of World War II Fury focuses upon a single tank unit, commanded by the war-hardened Don “wardaddy” Collier (Brad Pitt) and his five-man crew. Collier has fought from North Africa, to Normandy, to Germany, and has slowly seen his soul hollowed from the experience.
This is in stark contrast to the newest recruit, a young clerk named Norman, who is more suited to typing memos than shooting Nazis. It is mainly the interactions between Collier and Norman that make Fury work so well. Collier is a soldier, and sees soldiering as the job which they have to do: and epitomises the “it’s either them or us” mentality when it comes to pulling the trigger. He is really neither a hero nor a villain, but a man doing his job; and it is when Norman fails in his duty that Collier is forced to take matters into his hands, in what is one of the films most memorable scenes.
Unsurprisingly considering its title, Fury is an intense and relentless experience. From credits-to-credits the film is grim: from a German SS Officer being stabbed through the eye, to the tank-tracks continuous roll through the thick mud and scattered remains of shattered lives. One characteristic which will strike people though, and I assume was purely an artistic choice by director David Ayer, is the use of colour to show the trajectory of the bullets. This instantly causes you to think of Star Wars, but not in an inappropriate way: it is visual aid which only increases the ferocity of the action and helps bombard the senses of the audience.
However, Fury is not all about fighting, as there is thankfully a lull in the onslaught when Collier and Norman visit a flat during a stop over in a small German village. The scene gives greater insight into the human element between those fighting and those waiting for the war to be over, and is crucial in elevating the film to the next level.
But despite this, I still think Fury just misses out on top honours. The final scenes are characteristic of the film, but are perhaps a bit too over the top. And while films such as Saving Private Ryan use the catchphrase FUBAR, I felt ‘best job I ever had’ smacked of imitation, while lacking the same power.
A lot of critics have said Fury is the best war film since Private Ryan and in some ways I agree with them. But if I were to watch anything on war, and World War II in particular, for me Band of Brothers trumps them all. It may not be a film as such, but it is as close to perfection as you’re ever likely to get.
Fury then is an intense and entertaining war film, but in the end it’s missing that vital ingredient to take it to the top: it’s missing Stephen Spielberg.