Runtime: 134 Mins
What To Expect: The best war movie in 15 years
We need more movies like this. The big league World War 2 movie has been a bit anaemic in recent years, so another big (and good) one was needed to remind those who make movies that there’s still an appetite for them. As an added bonus, it’s a tank orientated movie and we have seen even less of those. When was the last World War 2 movie to really show really good tank action? Was it really Kelly’s Heroes all those decades ago? Either way, this is a real shot in the arm for manly movies. And I mean that. Well directed, authentic production and props and of a certain ‘David Ayer’ type of real. Case in point, the interior of the tank in the script is described as awash with blood, piss and oil. That’s exactly what you want from a WW2 tank movie.
David Ayer you might remember, wrote the highly underrated U-571, a WW2 submarine thriller from 2000. Ayer is a former submariner himself, so he knows how to relay the cramped hell of being inside an iron coffin in the middle of combat. The plot is simple: a Sherman tank platoon must probe Germany proper, during the last weeks of WW2. They meet fanatical resistance. Brad Pitt is Wardaddy, commander of the command tank (the one that gives orders to the other Shermans). He has been at war since North Africa and is turned cold blooded killing machine, his mainstay crew of Michael Peña (driver), Shia LeBeouf (gunner) and Jon Bernthal (loader) aren’t too far behind. 19 year old office typist Logan Lerman is forced to act as radioman, with Pitt’s heartless tank commander dragging him kicking and screaming into the war.
I have only one complaint about this otherwise awesome movie. At times, Brad Pitt borders on God-mode, and his Sherman appears to be the toughest Sherman to ever have rolled out of a factory. It’s almost like there’s some pandering to Pitt’s status as a leading man or, possibly even his ego. For a movie that wants to slap you cold and hard in the face with ultra-realism, by all accounts, Pitt and his tank should not have survived as long as it did. I would’ve preferred it if they’d replaced the Easy-8 Sherman (more heavily armored Sherman) with something like a Pershing, the big daddy of American tanks in WW2. But over all, this doesn’t detract too much, it’s an acceptable compromise.
This is probably the best war movie since 1998 though, when three classic WW2 movies came out (Saving Private Ryan, The Thin Red Line and When Trumpets Fade). If they might possibly have picked a better leading man than Brad Pitt (he’s too old to be a Sherman TC), they couldn’t possibly have picked a better director than David Ayer. Crucially, his combat scenes are both steady yet thrilling. No shaking cameras here, so when you have a director with real skill and a penchant for coarse realism, you get the best battle scenes since Saving Private Ryan. Each side in this movie also has killers, not just soldiers. And that’s what happens in war. Ayer shows us 1945 from a neutral viewpoint.
I couldn’t very well write a review for Fury either, without mentioning the Tiger tank that appears. Ayer pulled a massive coup in acquiring that piece of machinery for his movie. There have been Tigers in several WW2 movies in the past, but they’ve all been mock ups. This one is the real deal, a cinematic first. It had its own team of curators during filming, to make sure that it was taken care of a pampered through filming. It’s an almost mythical piece of hardware, exceptionally rare nowadays, and waiting for it to appear was almost like waiting for the T-Rex to appear in Jurassic Park for the first time, way back in the day. It doesn’t disappoint.
It has been too long. I am double and triple glad that a WW2 movie came, and that it was directed by David Ayer, about a less spoken of facet of WW2.