Over time it has become increasingly more difficult for me to watch violence on film, wondering how it could possibly be good for the psyche to silently cheer on humans shooting each other regardless of the fact that the good guys must needs do so in order to triumph over the bad guys. Cinema is inherently voyeuristic, but in the mainstream these days, even though I am all for a good action movie, explosions and all, that voyeurism involves a tacit complicity with violence that is difficult for a thinking person to condone - especially in oneself.
David Ayer, a talented writer director, has broken that usual mould with his astonishingly realistic and searing new war film, Fury which tells the story of a team of five men who operate a M4A3E8 Sherman tank in the last push to win the war in Nazi Germany.
These five, very human, very flawed men are played by Brad Pitt as Don Wardaddy Collier, a hardened but fatherly man with hidden depths who commands the Sherman tank. His team is completed by a religious gunner, the aptly named “Bible” Swan played by a perpetually moist eyed Shia LaBeouf; Jon Bernthal plays the rough edged Grady “Coon-Ass”, a gun loader, and the always great Michael Peña plays Trini “Gordo” Garcia, the driver. Late to this tight crew of four who have just lost their assistant driver is the wide eyed, baby faced Norman (Logan Lerman), an army typist who has never seen battle but soon learns, the hardest possible way, that in war, one must either kill or be killed.
Fury is not easy viewing. It begins slowly, settling us into the bleak war torn world where the Allied Forces are winning but losing hundreds of men daily in the process of finishing off the still fighting German army. As we become familiar with the characters and the tiny insides of the Sherman tank commanded by Wardaddy, we begin to understand why the tank is named Fury; these men have been severely traumatised by the extreme violence of war, barely functioning in tight quarters without cigarettes and alcohol, destined to become dysfunctional members of society if they survive, incapacitated by the violence they have witnessed and been forced to participate in.
There are very few war films that can justify displaying such levels of violence. Personally, I feel that watching these films should make viewers understand the horrors of war, to the extent that one never wishes for that kind of horror to be repeated in history, ever. In my opinion, Fury achieves this aim standing alongside Terrence Mallik’s brilliant The Thin Red Line (1998), another film that makes you feel the horrors of war without inadvertently celebrating in it.