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" I can’t believe Liberace was gay "
— Mike Myers, Austin Powers

MRQE Top Critic

The East

The East emerges as an exciting piece of filmmaking from the independent scene’s hott —Matt Anderson (review...)

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Brad Pitt is a movie star; don’t call him an actor. Not since Cary Grant as a talent been so well understood and so well used. He’s a figure of manhood, with deep voice, sculpted torso, natural leadership, and a casual roughness that almost never crosses his boundaries of restraint. For men, he’s the big brother everyone wishes they had (and maybe feared); for women, the husband (or at least the ex-boyfriend).

Where You From

Fury takes place in the last days of World War II in Germany. Pitt plays sergeant Don “Wardaddy” Collier, the leader of the tank crew on the Sherman tank named “Fury.” He’s an intimidating leader, willing to fly into a rage at captured prisoners, and not above executing a prisoner to make a point. But he’d also prevent one of his men from being unnecessarily cruel. He’ll also notice whether you’ve eaten today. He’d never admit it was kindness; he’d say he can’t have you collapsing from fatigue, but he’d notice and he’d care.

The cast (and crew) of Fury
The cast (and crew) of Fury

Wardaddy’s crew includes “Bible” (Shia LaBeouf), “Gordo” (Michael Peña), and “Coon Ass” (Jon Bernthal). The old WWII movie game would have been to try to guess which stereotype would die first. Fury doesn’t completely reject that trope (though Coon Ass does tell the new guy, “Nobody gives a fuck where you from.”)

The new guy is Norman (Logan Lerman), a typist assigned to Fury through the magic of Army logistics. Norman has never killed anyone, Nazi or otherwise, and had hoped to spend the war in an office. The locations are muddy and gray, and the crew look like they haven’t bathed in a month — all except for spotless Norman, just assigned today. Production designer Andrew Menzies doesn’t shy away from grime.

Norman’s first job is to clean his seat in the tank. Not so bad until you realize why there is a vacant seat. Writer/director David Ayer ( Sabotage and End of Watch) ensures Fury’s R rating with some gruesome images.

Tank Porn

Fury is tank porn. There are a small handful of big fights. The first one sets up how tanks work, what each of the five men do. Ayer and editors Jay Cassidy and Dody Dorn are refreshingly clear about how the battlefield works. They show exactly where every shell comes from and where it lands, how it was loaded and how it was launched. The high speed ricochets are revealed by contrails and special effects, and emphasized by the pounding soundtrack, while tracer bullets make the battlefield look like Star Wars. The result is a combat scene you can actually follow and understand.

An exciting battle in the middle of the film comes down to a one-on-one match, each wounded tank trying to outflank the other. The tanks move slowly, and the scene is all the more tense for it.

Norman Rockwell

But Fury is so much more than just tank porn. The most surprising thing about Fury, and maybe the best, is the scene of domesticity in the middle (and its echo at the end).

The story halts mid-tracks in a just-liberated German town. Outside, there is merriment, drinking, smoking, and whoring. Those with a more cynical imagination can probably include some worse behavior as well. The Nazis have been captured or executed, and the American soldiers are celebrating while they can.

Amid this boisterous spectacle Ayer slows things down, a la Quentin Tarantino, and includes an unusual and long scene of character development. Wardaddy wants to inspire Norman’s hatred for the Nazis; make him a better killer. So he takes Norman in a building, up to a finely decorated room where the highest ranking S.S. officers dressed in their best to eat, smoke, drink, and be merry, because they knew the Americans were coming. They all died of self-inflicted gunshots. The class difference between the lush parlor and the mud and gray outside, “decorated” with strung-up civilians hung with signs condemning their lack of fervor.

Wardaddy and Norman hear a sound from above. They investigate another apartment. A woman (Anamaria Marinca, Europa Report) and her young niece (Alicia von Rittberg) are there. There is mutual fear — will the soldiers shoot or rape? Are they hiding a bomb, or a man with a gun? The tension never goes away, but they find an uneasy truce. At one point the four of them make a Norman Rockwell portrait of domesticity.

War Changes

Ayer slowly plays out this amazing scene, which is dreamy, almost surreal in its contrast to the bloody war taking place just outside the window. Wardaddy takes the opportunity to shave and wash. Norman sits down at the piano and the fearful niece becomes delighted and sings along.

After fifteen minutes, Ayer turns the scene of civilization on its head, making a larger comment about what war does to men. It’s a parallel to Norman’s transformation from clerk to killer. More importantly, it also provokes deeper thoughts about class differences and resentments, even between American soldiers.

There is another third of the film still to go, and after the odd scene in the town, there is a new tension in the crew of Fury. It only dissipates at the second scene of “domesticity,” when Wardaddy pats ol’ Fury on the hatch and says “this is my home.” Ultimately, Fury embraces the bonding that happens when men from different backgrounds are forced to rely on each other.