“Fury is a good, solid World War II movie, nothing more and nothing less,” declares the Hollywood Reporter‘s Todd McCarthy. “Rugged, macho, violent and with a story sufficiently unusual to grab and hold interest, it’s a modern version of the sort of movie Hollywood turned out practically every week back in the 1940s and 1950s. Today, and because it stars Brad Pitt in what deserves to stand as an emblematic performance, it seems like a bigger deal, and the film’s mild case of pretentiousness in the climactic stretch is its one notable problem…. A Navy man himself, writer-director David Ayer smartly moves away from the feverish cop and urban crime dramas he’s written and sometimes directed (Training Day, S.W.A.T., Dark Blue, Harsh Times, Street Kings, End of Watch) to channel his dramatic ferocity into a story of the Allies’ final ground assault on the Third Reich.”
“Pitt plays Sergeant Don ‘Wardaddy’ Collier, the commander of an M4 Sherman tank who, along with his four-man crew, is part of the final Allied push towards Berlin,” explains Robbie Collin in the Telegraph, where he gives Fury four out of five stars. “The tank’s nickname, daubed in white along the barrel of its 76mm gun, is Fury, and the word hangs in the background of almost every scene like a never-changing stage direction. As in Sam Peckinpah’s Cross of Iron (1977) and Samuel Fuller’s The Big Red One (1980), any Hollywood gloss has been scoured away: the plot is raw, episodic and wholly unsentimental; a gruelling onward rumble from one brush with death to the next.”
“It’s a marvel of military service how men who might despise one another in civilian life can become like brothers in the field,” writes Variety‘s Peter Debruge, “and here, we get a sense of both the off-color squabbling and the deep-rooted camaraderie among these virtual siblings. Wardaddy’s team includes the Scripture-quoting ‘Bible’ (Shia LaBeouf), Latino driver ‘Gordo’ (Michael Peña, affecting an early-century Mexican accent) and barely evolved swamp-rat mechanic ‘Coon-Ass’ (Jon Bernthal). Ayer introduces the team from within the tight confines of their tank, a space that doesn’t yield many good angles, but allows for some nifty lighting tricks. DP Roman Vasyanov’s favorite is clearly to frame just the actors’ eyes through the narrow slits of the tank’s armor.”
Vasyonov is “the real star of Fury,” suggests Indiewire‘s Eric Kohn. “But the extraordinary visuals never develop a substantial takeaway, and neither do the characters.” Grade: C. And from the Playlist‘s Kevin Jagernauth, a C+: “It’s not the most complex WWII movie you’ll see, but there’s no denying the blunt intensity of Fury, and even if it doesn’t sustain, Ayer commits to staring straight into hellish eye of war and bringing audiences along to witness every gruesome detail.”
More from Jason Gorber (Twitch), Drew McWeeney (HitFix), Scott Mendelson (Forbes) and Kristopher Tapley (HitFix). The Credits‘ Bryan Adams talks with composer Steven Price, who won an Oscar and other awards for his score for Gravity.
Updates: At Slant, Jesse Cataldo argues that “Fury casts itself as an authentic corrective to classic tales of derring-do, exposing all the sordid beastliness buried beneath illusions of patriotic valor. But while the miserable account of war given here is likely more realistic than that of less gruesome portrayals, it’s still operating off the same basic fantasy of combat as a messy proving ground for men poised on the fringes of chaos, doing the dirty work necessary to keep civilization safe from harm. Cast in a muddy palette of grays, browns, and greens, the film makes a dour show of this two-sided approach, claiming disgust at the horrors of war while relishing their gory shock value and the opportunities for down-and-dirty glory they facilitate.”
The Guardian‘s Peter Bradshaw: “There are dashes of both Spielberg’s Saving Private Ryan and Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds—though as influences, those movies are less important than second world war-themed first-person shooter games like Call of Duty and Brothers in Arms. With its gruesome violence and gore, it certainly looks very different to a movie like Richard Attenborough’s A Bridge Too Far from 1977 on a similar subject, but with a rather loftier officer’s-eye-view. Fury is a punchy, muscular action film, confidently put together and never anything other than watchable—though closer to this director’s previous macho adventure Sabotage, and not his more thoughtful movies like End of Watch or Harsh Times. It has some pretty outrageous cliches and the attendant impression of realism is compromised in the big, central scene when the guys gather for an austere meal with some conquered civilians. It’s a sentimental moment which in terms of history and sexual politics looks about as real as a 17 Reichsmark note.”
For Tim Grierson, writing for Screen, “some nicely barebones performances, particularly from Brad Pitt, keep the film grimly riveting and thoughtful even when conventionality eventually takes hold.”
Updates, 10/12: “The gore is extreme horror movie-level gruesome,” notes Matt Prigge at Metro. “Like The Hurt Locker, but in an even less explicit way, it says that to be good at war—or to even just to be in the midst of it—one has to imagine doing nothing else.”
For James Rocchi at TheWrap, Fury “attains a savage grace that turns its brutality into a kind of truth, as hulking metal juggernauts crush across the landscape spitting fire and death with fragile, mortal flesh-and-blood men inside. This isn’t disposable popcorn entertainment, or a winking ‘war’ film like Inglourious Basterds. Ayer’s aim here is a film that will stick, and stick with you. And he achieves it.”
Update, 10/14: Fury‘s “a war-is-hell story about the four veterans and one newcomer…, but it’s also about the depths of the relationships they’ve built with one another in the midst of combat. And in that way, it’s also another type of movie—the kind I’ve always thought of as ‘the male weepie.'” Alison Willmore explains at Buzzfeed.
Update, 10/15: What Fury has “in droves,” finds Josef Braun, “is this appalling, pretentious mixture of misanthropy and sentimentality, with endless peanut-brained justifications for superfluous raping and killing. There’s a scene in which a newbie (Logan Lerman), already traumatized by having to clean to clean up the bloody interior of the tank and discovering a sizable chunk of someone’s face, is escorted by Collier into a room littered with Nazis who suicided in anticipation of the Allies’ arrival. As though speaking on our behalf, the newbie asks, ‘Why are you showing me this?’ And Collier, as though speaking on Ayers’s behalf, answers, ‘Ideals are peaceful. History is violent.’ This is the zenith of what passes for wisdom in Fury.”
Updates, 10/16: “It’s all very Peckinpah—or at least it could be, if Ayer had any sense of poetry,” writes Ignatiy Vishnevetsky at the AV Club. “Ayer is devoted to the very ’70s idea that a violent film has to be about the efficacy of violence, but he always comes to same relativist conclusion; his world is black and gray, which isn’t all that different from black and white.”
“The battle scenes are staged with blunt, ground-level virtuosity, and with a welcome regard for spatial and visual coherence,” finds the New York Times‘ A.O. Scott. “When the tank needs to cross an expanse of muddy ground, you feel every jolt and swerve. And there is a lot of muddy ground to cover.”
Salon‘s Andrew O’Hehir: “Ayer’s brand of cinemacho involves no CGI space-battles or robot superheroes; he appears uniquely interested in the long-neglected category of Movies for Your Dad, featuring hardboiled and morally conflicted heroes facing the final test of their moral fiber. If Ayer’s pictures all combine ultra-violence, tough-minded realism and masculine sentimentality, at least the blend is distinctive, and bears little or no resemblance to the teen-oriented action fantasies that dominate Hollywood production.”
“Fury has an exhausted, lived-in quality that’s one of its greatest strengths,” writes Nathan Rabin at the Dissolve. “But the film’s aspirations to realism often clash with its reliance on war-movie clichés. The film’s climax, meanwhile, abandons realism entirely, as the devastated crew seemingly takes on the entire German army with a single rusty, immobile tank. Fury lives up to its title with its great ferocity, but at a certain point, it begins to feel like a macho fantasy.”
“Audience members may feel like prisoners of war forced to watch a training-torture film,” suggests Time‘s Richard Corliss.
More from Paul Constant (Stranger), Zade Constantine (Film Stage, C), Craig D. Lindsey (Nashville Scene), Marc Savlov (Austin Chronicle, 2.5/5) and Adam Woodward (Little White Lies).
Interviews with Ayer:Henry Barnes (Guardian), Eric Eidelstein (Indiewire) and Drew Taylor (Playlist).
Updates, 10/17: “If nothing else, the film’s gothic Grand Guignol aesthetic proves that Ayer should be a lock to adapt Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian for the screen,” suggests David Fear, writing for Film Comment. And “the Omen-esque soundtrack only confirms that Ayer isn’t trying to make a combat picture so much as a horror film.”
Sean Burns: “Ayer has been trying to get a remake of The Wild Bunch—the greatest of all films—off the ground for years, and he mimics that picture’s immortal climax here to such an absurd extent I hope that he’s finally gotten this terrible idea out of his system. By the time he’s carefully arranging Brad Pitt in William Holden poses behind a .50 caliber machine gun, I was struck by how reverently someone can pay homage to an old movie without seeming to understand it at all.”
Updates, 10/18: New York‘s David Edelstein notes that the crew applauds “whatever Collier does, even when it’s technically a war crime. But as they fight, you come to accept them, love them. It’s part of Fury’s creeping relativism…. Our knowledge that German surrender is imminent gives the film an aura of tragic senselessness: This doesn’t need to happen. But Ayer knows that much of his audience consists of jocks eager to see Nazis royally wasted, and he gives them what they want.”
“This is almost certainly the most persuasive depiction of tank warfare yet committed to celluloid,” declares the Atlantic‘s Christopher Orr. “Over the course of its first half-hour, Fury conveys, with visceral intensity, the experience of huddling alone with four other men in a tiny, vulnerable metal shell, while Hell breaks loose all around you. The problem with the film is that, over its subsequent hour and a half, it does little more than repeatedly convey that same experience, albeit at escalating levels of mayhem.”
“The trouble with Fury is that while stocking up on all the little details, Ayer has failed to provide much of a narrative for them to hang upon,” finds Peter Sobczynski at RogerEbert.com.
“For all the craft on display, there came a point in the movie where I wondered why we were being put through this,” writes Robert Horton in the Herald.
“Sometimes pretentious and sometimes straining a bit too hard for an extra degree of pathos, it’s nonetheless an arresting film that’s often unsettling and unpredictable,” finds Nicholas Bell at Ioncinema.
Updates, 10/20: Fury “is one of the great war movies—right near the top, within range of Steven Spielberg’s Saving Private Ryan (1998) and other classics,” argues David Denby in the New Yorker.
Jason Guerrasio talks with Ayer for Esquire.
For news and tips throughout the day every day, follow @KeyframeDaily. Get Keyframe Daily in your inbox by signing in at fandor.com/daily.