Dark and surprisingly deep, David Ayer’s Fury is worthy entry into the pantheon of World War 2 movies. Ayer’s vision in the film is distinct and constant. Unrelenting darkness, just like war itself. Just when you think there will be light, the darkness returns, brooding over the cast of characters. Yes, Fury does hit on some on the classic themes we are used to seeing in gritty war films, but has enough originality to stand on its own.
It cannot go unnoticed how consistent Ayers shots are throughout the film. The light barely seeps through the constant overcast, and in the glimmering moments it does come through, we are reminded again about the darkness. “Ideals are peaceful,” says Don, played by an outstanding Brad Pitt, “history is violent.” He says these words to the youngster Norm, played nicely by Logan Lerman, and it pretty much sums up the film for me. So much of the film takes place in the darkness, in the real world, where dead bodies are bulldozed into piles and limbs and lives are lost, but each man has their humanity, their ideals, that they keep tucked away inside them and these ideals are just oozing to come out, but in a world and time so harsh, the opportunity to let go and live your life through your ideal is hard to come by.
The most poignant example of this sort of notion is after the crew of the Fury, along with some other platoons, raid a town and extinguish the Krauts, as they are called in the film. Once the fighting is over, Don notices a woman in a window and he brings the young Norm with him. After they enter the room, they find a young woman hiding. At this point in the film, we know Don is an honorable man and that no harm will come to the German women, but they don’t. They see the Americans as enemies who could kill them without reason. Their fear is felt in high volume. This is also due in part from the fear emanating from Norm, who is in an unfamiliar position.
But it is the good-will of Don that shines, who has a few eggs that he asks the older woman, Irma, to cook. And while he cleans himself up, he orders Norm to take the young woman, Emma, into the bedroom. Don understands the situation. Two young people experiencing a harsh world deserve some beauty, that is the logic Don is conveying. And it wasn’t all that long ago in the film’s timeline that Don made Norm shoot a Kraut in the back as a lesson about killing people, so Norm is understandably apprehensive. This juxtaposition of love and death is essentially the circle of life and the older Don understands it and is trying to show his young friend the ropes.
This scene takes a giant turn when the rest of the crew comes and finds them. The crew consists of Boyd “Bible” Swan (Shia LeBeouf), Trini “Gordo” Garcia (Michael Peña), and Grady “Coon-Ass” Travis (Jon Bernthal). These men have been through thick and thin together and are drunk after successfully living through another battle. Their interactions with the four, who were just sitting down to eat, is extreme. They are the quintessential party-poopers, reigning on the parade of those privy to some peace and quiet in a tumultuous time.
Due to their intoxicated nature, writer Ayers is able to show their true colors. They are making a stink about not being invited, but it goes deeper than that. They are ultimately scared of death. The beauty of the woman and the homely cooking is part of a world they are not currently in. They work in death and death is dark and unpleasant. It isn’t poached eggs and tea, it is blood and guts. And only moments after Norm and Don finish their meal with the German women, a bomb destroys the building, killing Emma and Irma. Extinguishing the light of life with the darkness of death.
And through the difference of life and death, Ayers unravels each character beautifully. Bible memorizes verses from, well, the Bible to comfort him in times of despair. Gordo remembers his family back home. And Grady reveals his true emotions to Norm in an abandoned warehouse. Even Don has a Tom Hanks moment a la Saving Private Ryan with the shaky hand. All four men are the prototypical soldiers only doing their duty. Their duty is dark and menacing and full of death, but deep down they are all looking for the beauty.