Fury: Solid, Tense WWII Movie Starring Brad Pitt


David Ayer may or may not have watched Spielberg’s Saving Private Ryan and Tarantino’s “Inglourious Basterds,” but his WWII movie, “Fury”, evokes memories of both films, especially Tarantino’s, which also starred Brad Pitt in a similar role, albeit in a pulpy fictional tale.

Pitt, whose company produced Fury ,is cast as a grizzled U.S. tank commander, who leads sweaty, brutish but basically golden-hearted GIs into the heart of the Fatherland after D-Day, part of the Allies’ western front campaign to gain control of Germany.

They’re rumbling into a world of pain, fighting field by field and hedgerow by hedgerow against an enemy now intent on defending its own territory with desperate fanaticism.

The prologue informs that it’s April 1945, and the war is nearly over, though the Nazis are still fighting back with “fanatical resistance.”

Call the picture “The Dirty Dozen” in a confined area and under duress. Indeed, the cramped tank serves as home to these men. They have named it “Fury,” the word daubed on its gun barrel. But Fury also represents their attitude toward the Germans and toward each other.

Don Collier, aka Wardaddy, the leader of the Fury, an M4 Sherman tank crew, relates: “I started this war fighting Nazis in Africa, then I followed them to Belgium, to France, and now Germany.” The medals of officers he and his crew have killed decorate the tank’s interior.

His conduct in and outside the tank, is motivated by two forces: Deep hatred and contempt for the Nazis and strong devotion to his crew, whom he vows to keep alive against impossible odds.  Despite his efforts, though, Wardaddy had lost his assistant driver in a recent battle, and he’s about to face another unanticipated event.

A figure of hard-won authority, Wardaddy is  intent on executing SS officers where they can be captured as prisoners of war. He is tough, laconic vet of the African and European campaigns, who has picked bits and pieces of German language, which allows him express hatred of the Nazis.

What separates “Fury” from many other WII combat films is that the tank team does not represent overly familiar types or stereotypes. The men under Wardaddy’s command include the sternly religious “Bible” Swan (Shia LaBeouf), the sweaty and truculent Grady (Jon Bernthal), the stoic Gordo (Michael Peña), and a hapless new gunner, Norman, a terrified kid (Logan Lerman).

“Fury” opened to No. 1 in the U.S. on Friday with $8.8 million, which includes $1.2 million from Thursday night showings. The violent tank tale, directed by David Ayer, looks to haul $25 million in its debut weekend.

This is a record opening for director David Ayer, who wrote and directed 2012’s “End of Watch” and scripted “Training Day.”  Aside from Pitt’s star power, the $68 million production, backed by Columbia Pictures, benefits from strong critical support, earning 80% on Rotten Tomatoes.

In 2009, Pitt’s other WWII picture, “Inglourious Basterds,” directed by Quentin Tarantino, launched to $38 million, and impresively grossed $321.5 million worldwide.