David Ayer responsible for the terrific End of Watch, and the screenwriter of Training Day, has also directed some failures including last years risible Sabotage starring Arnie. Fury sits somewhere in the middle. Ayer grew up in South East LA and enlisted in the United States Navy as a submariner. He has the credentials to execute a powerful war picture, however aside from the expertly executed battle scenes originality is in short supply.
The tropes and cliches of the war genre replete with stock characters are played out. Pitt in movie star mode plays Sgt; Don “wardaddy” Collier the leader of a tank cohort, his credentials for being a fierce warrior are established early, as he viscously disposes of a German soldier. Collier has the added benefit of speaking German, and is almost superhuman in his capacity to dispose of Germans. “I started killing Germans in Africa, then France, then Belgium, and now Germany, the war will end soon but before it does a lot more people gotta die.” Lt Aldo Raine is lurking somewhere under the surface of the Collier character. The arrival of young turk Private Norman Ellison (Lerman) replacing the recently slain second driver of the group propels the narrative to explore his loss of innocence through a series of battles. Lines like “which way is the front?” and “I trained to type 60 words a minute," signal that this young man is a lamb about to be sacrificed. The other members of the group include a mumbling hillbilly named coon ass, a believer named bible and Gordo played by Ayer semi regular Michael Pena. Except for the gratuity of the violence already deployed in Spielberg’s superior Saving Private Ryan, there nothing new on offer. Norman’s transformation from lamb to lion is played out against a backdrop of constructed setpieces. It is predictable and formulaic. After he is shown a roomful of dead Nazi’s, he asks his teacher Collier, “Why are you showing me this?” who replies, “ideas are peaceful history is violent.” It is a crringe worthy moment.
As the narrative progresses the battles become more intense, the sound and fury executed makes these Jay Cassidy (Silver Lining Playbook, Foxcatcher) and Dody Dorn (End of Watch), constructed scenes almost exhilirating. The final battle takes the heroics to a new level, hundreds of singing and marching SS soldiers, will be stopped at a symbolic crossroad by five men in a tank.