Fury is an American war film from 2014 starring Brad Pitt and written and directed by David Ayer. Fury covers the experiences of American tank crews during the last days of the Second World War, as the Allies made their final push into Nazi Germany. The resistance they encounter is fanatical and full of hardened SS troops, few remnants of the once mighty Wehrmacht and the Volkssturm, a people’s militia full of children and old men fighting to defend the Third Reich from imminent defeat.
What works for Fury, is the gore and the carnage and the utter hopelessness of the fighting. Both sides are exhausted by war, yet the carnage continues. The movie focuses on tankers from the U.S. Second Armored Division, mainly on “Fury”, a M4 Sherman tank, led by Don “Wardaddy” Collier, a battle-hardened U.S. Army First Sergeant and his crew, who are all veterans: gunner Boyd “Bible” Swan, loader Grady “Coon-Ass” Travis, driver Trini “Gordo” Garcia, and assistant driver–bow gunner “Red,” all of whom have fought together since the North African campaign. As the movie begins, Red is killed and replaced by a rookie, Private First Class Norman Ellison, a clerk typist who was transferred to be a replacement, who has not been in the inside of a tank.
As they move deeper into Germany, Norman’s inexperience quickly becomes dangerous: he spots but fails to shoot Hitler Youth child soldiers who ambush the platoon leader’s tank with a Panzerfaust, killing the entire crew and burning their young platoon leader alive. Wardaddy takes over command of the tank column (4 tanks including Fury); later, as they help rescue American soldiers caught in an ambush, he hesitates under fire during a skirmish with German Pak-40 anti-tank guns. Wardaddy is angered and worried by his lack of aggression on Norman’s part; after the battle, he spots a captured German soldier wearing a U.S. Army coat and orders Norman to execute him. When he refuses, Don wrestles the pistol into his hand and forces him to pull the trigger, killing the prisoner and traumatizing Norman.
With Wardaddy now the acting platoon leader, the tanks capture a small town with relative ease, with Norman firing at and killing German gun crew men, who are burning up alive due to Willie Pete ammunition fired at their position (Willie Pete refers to White Phosphorus ammunition – White phosphorus is pyrophoric (self-ignites on contact with air), burns fiercely, and can ignite cloth, fuel, ammunition, and other combustibles).
Wardaddy and Norman then enter an apartment and encounter a German woman named Irma, and her younger cousin Emma. Wardaddy pays them in cigarettes for a hot meal and some hot water for a shave. Norman and Emma bond, and at Wardaddy’s urging, the two go into the bedroom and have sex. Later, as the four sit down to eat, the rest of the crew drunkenly barges in, harassing the women and bullying Norman, but Wardaddy firmly rebukes them. They are called away on an urgent mission, but as the men prepare to leave, German artillery targets the town, destroying the apartment building they were in, killing Emma and her cousin, and further traumatizing Norman who is restrained by Coon-Ass, who shouts at him saying “Do you feel this? This is war!” – it is a statement which shows the hopelessness of their situation, the utter contempt for a life during war and destruction and slaughter which becomes acceptable during a war.
The tank platoon is ordered to capture and hold a vital crossroads to protect the division’s rear echelon. En route to the crossroads, they are ambushed by a SS Tiger tank, which wipes out the entire platoon except for Fury. Using a smoke screen, Fury manages to get close to the Tiger which being heavier is not as fast in maneuvering as the Sherman, and eventually destroys the Tiger by firing into its thinner rear armor instead of its impenetrable front armor.
Unable to notify his superiors because the radio has been damaged, Don decides to try to complete their mission. Upon arriving at the crossroads, the tank is immobilized by a landmine. Wardaddy sends Norman to scout a nearby hill; from there, he eventually spots a battalion of Waffen-SS infantry approaching. The rest of the crew wants to flee, but Wardaddy decides to stay, eventually convincing the others to stand and fight in a last stand. The men disguise Fury to make it appear to be knocked out and then hide inside. While they wait, the crew finally gives Wardaddy a nickname – “Machine” – to show their acceptance of him. They then ambush the Germans, inflicting heavy casualties in a long and vicious battle. This battle, however, turns the war drama into a crazy action film with little regard to tactics, as an elite SS company becomes a rabble without any strategy attacking a disabled tank in the middle of the road.
Grady is killed by a Panzerfaust that penetrates the turret, Gordo is shot while unpinning a grenade and sacrifices himself by covering it before it explodes, then a sniper kills Bible and severely wounds Wardaddy. Out of ammunition and surrounded, Wardaddy orders Norman to escape through the floor hatch as the Germans drop potato masher grenades into the tank. Norman slips out just before they explode, killing Wardaddy. Norman tries to hide as the Germans move on, but is spotted by a young SS soldier, who hesitates, then leaves without alerting his comrades. This is bizarre behavior especially from an SS soldier, as they were infamous for executing prisoners during the war.
The next morning, Norman crawls back into the tank, where he covers Wardaddy’s body with his jacket. He is rescued by American soldiers who praise him as a hero. As Norman is driven away in an ambulance, he looks back at numerous dead SS soldiers lying around the disabled Fury while the American troops continue their advance. The camera pans out revealing the Fury at the center of the crossroads where their battle took place and the carnage which ensued through the night and the German dead littered all across the field.
Fury scores high when it comes to depicting the brutality of the war, the trauma and fear that enveloped Allied tank crews especially facing heavy German tanks like the Tigers and the utter disregard for human lives. The deaths of innocent German women, the young platoon leader who burned to death in his tank, the execution of captured German soldiers and the overall hopelessness for both the Allied and Axis forces. The acting is solid especially Brad Pitt and Shia LaBeouf who play the parts of Wardaddy and Bible well. The battle sequences are well shot and the action is excellent. The problem Fury has that after showing reality for so long, it descends into a Hollywood glorification of the American tank crew – any tactical awareness on the German part is almost absent where one knows exactly that the Americans will prevail over all odds. Destroying a Tiger tank that smashed two other Shermans from a strong position and for some bizarre reason, left a strong position to engage in close combat – check!, German Waffen SS soldiers blindly charging a fixed tank stuck in the crossroads instead of going around it and attacking from the rear – check!
Fury has several solid scenes and its action sequences are one of the best since Saving Private Ryan, but the whole good v. evil rhetoric and the depiction of American soldiers as all conquering and Axis forces having no concept of tactics is a little exhausting.
Watch Fury for its awesome battle sequences and to develop a healthy distaste for war