Saving Private Norman – ★★★★
Motorcycle clubs like the Hells Angels and others were born out of WWII soldiers returning home only to find they were unable to adapt to normal society. With Fury we see the genesis of such a group. Four men cramped in a small tank, inhaling each others stench, depending on one another for survival and having only themselves to comfort upon seeing the horrors of war.
Brad Pitt is Wardaddy (the leader of the group). Shia LaBeouf is his weapons man and pious bible quoter, next is Michael Pena a front gunner and finally Jon Bernthal the tank idiot and weapons man. The film starts in a dreamlike wasteland with Pitt murdering a German officer on horseback. He then frees the horse in a symbolic gesture which becomes more grounded as the film progresses. Their tank – Fury – is the only one to have survived the off screen battle and when they return to base camp they are met by Norman (Logan Lerman), a very wet behind-the-ears desk clerk who has been assigned to their tank.
With the rest of the unit hardened by their time in the field, a steep learning curve ensues for Norman. He must quickly learn to kill Nazis or be of little use to Wardaddy and his band of brothers. We see how soon an ideal is lost and it simply becomes a matter of survival. The tank numbers keep dwindling and soon Fury is all that is left leaving the dilemma, stay and fight or retreat?
Fury fits into many war film camps. It has the gritty realism of Saving Private Ryan (but without the handheld cameras), the abstract stillness of The Thin Red Line, the symbolism of Jarhead and the sheer insanity of Apocalypse Now. With Saving Private Ryan we saw the bloody reality of the D-Day landings but in Fury we also delve more into the psychological trauma of war. With Brad Pitt telling of first killing Germans in Africa and now killing them in Germany, we get a sense of the all-encompassing nature of war.
All the acting is faultless. LaBeouf stands out, in a sense portraying the moral core of the film. His constant belief that they are doing God’s will gives an insight into what most men must have been feeling and how they rationalised the horrendous deeds they witnessed and committed. Lerman continues the promise he showed in The Perks of Being a Wallflower with an excellent performance in showing the effects of war on the youth of America.
Director David Ayer has done a stellar job in knitting this unit together and capturing the claustrophobia of tank warfare. All the characters look as if they haven’t slept in months making it easier to warm to their hurt and sympathise when some inevitably perish. Quite philosophical at times, Fury explodes in the final third and while the film is certainly building to this, the journey along the way leaves a lot to ponder.
With the group proclaiming many times during the film “best job I ever had” you realise they have become institutionalised. The victims of Stockholm Syndrome – trapped in a fight they don’t want yet are incapable of escaping from.
Fury is released nationwide today the 22nd of October 2014