Wael Khairy casts his eye on the latest big budget World War II drama, finding that the all-star cast and cliched narratives make for a confused film, muddled in mediocrity.
David Ayer is one of those filmmakers I’ve always kept an eye on. From his disturbingly powerful directorial debut, Harsh Times to Fury, Ayer seems to be a master in telling intimate tales of people leading very dangerous jobs. His 2012 film, End of Watch made it on my list of top 10 films of that year. However, his latest foray seems to lack the grittiness of his earlier films.
Maybe it’s the big budget or the all-star cast. Whatever it is, Fury looks and feels like a film production. When a film is great, for the briefest of moments, the viewer forgets he’s watching a movie. There are films that demand this type of realism; a WWII picture told from the perspective of a single tank definitely qualifies as such. Fury is the Hollywood version of Samuel Maoz’ Lebanon.
It is big, loud, and full of action sequences and although there are moments of greatness in Fury, at the end it is nothing but a conventional war film. There isn’t a single scene in this film that I haven’t seen before. Rather than being a film about soldiers in a tank, it chooses to be a WWII version of the 300. That’s right, one tank against (literally) 300 soldiers. The premise might excite some filmgoers out there, and they will enjoy it. It is a good action film after all. It’s too bad I was expecting more; it is too bad I was expecting anything but a thrill ride.
Deep down, I was hoping Fury would be to tank films what Das Boot is to submarine films. The latter nails the suffocating experience down to every bolt. It is claustrophobic, intense, boring (it should be), and mentally exhausting. Scenes in Das Boot seem so real; you can almost smell the stench from within the u-boat. Fury, on the other hand, concerns itself more with surprising the audience with unexpected bursts of violence and building a confused film towards a heroic last stand; nothing new here.
That said, the chemistry between the crew seems very natural. One can tell that a lot of scenes were probably improvised. Shia LeBeouf delivers a strong supporting performance to Pitt’s strong-silent type role of “Wardaddy” and Lerman hold his own against both actors. However, the film feels lost and hurried despite its lengthy runtime. At times, it felt like it was going down the gritty documentary feel route that I was hoping for, but then it’s almost like Ayer had a change of heart and turned it into a coming-of-age flick at war, before turning wheels again and ending it with the oh-so-overdone outnumbered battle.
Many will enjoy Fury but I’ve seen way too many conventional war films to fall for one that doesn’t add anything new or different to the genre. It lacks the philosophical undertones of The Thin Red Line, the griminess of Das Boot, the haunting psychology behind Apocalypse Now and the intense realism of Saving Private Ryan. Fury is an exercise of mediocrity.