Back in 2009, the Swine Flu pandemic was taking the world by storm, a black man was elected as the 44th President of the United States and James Cameron’s Avatar was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Picture. You might have thought it was the end of days, albeit ONLY if you were an extremist right-wing cinephile, but it was also the year that saw the release of the critically acclaimed Israeli film, Lebanon.

Lebanon is a contained war drama set during the first Lebanon War in 1982, as seen by four men of a tank crew. Upon hearing the concept of the piece and its decision to take place almost entirely inside the confines of a tank, our view of the outside world only coming from the scope of the gun’s turret. I was rather impressed and excited, even if I was slightly disappointed with the results.

Now, having undoubtedly been influenced and inspired by the Israeli drama, Brad Pitt and David Ayer (Training Day, End of Watch) bring us Fury: a film set in Germany during the closing days of WWII and following a battle-hardened army sergeant leading his tank and its four crewmen on a treacherous operation behind enemy lines.

Critics have obviously been comparing the new American action drama with 2009’s Lebanon. Many declaring the latter did a better job of putting you in the shoes of a military tank squad and giving the audience a sense of the confined and claustrophobic nature these soldiers are exposed to. However, I’m not so sure. Fury, for the most part, is a fast paced, visceral and often nail biting thrill ride. I found it did a better job of conveying the dangerous, daring and difficult role of a tank crew. It made me crucially aware of how important and tense each millisecond can be, the time in-between changing ammunition feeling like a life age of Earth. The horrible feeling of not knowing if the enemy tank has yet to reload and if your heroes are about to be blown sky high; it’s gripping edge of your seat moviemaking. However, the film also features many issues that annoyingly prevent it from reaching new heights.

One of the film’s biggest issues is that it struggles to identify with what type of film it wants to be. It’s clear that Fury is a sometimes-unsubtle blend of the nostalgic and thrilling war movies of the late sixties and seventies, such as Where Eagles Dare (1968) and Sam Peckinpah’s Cross of Iron (1977), with the contemporary, grounded and brutally realistic offerings of Saving Private Ryan (1998), Letters from Iwo Jima (2006) and Band of Brothers (2001).

The film, for the most part, feels like it wants to be an exhilarating 90 minute action thriller and then at times slows right down in its attempts to become something more complex, an engaging, insightful character study and war drama. It succeeds far more with its former intention but with its distractions, the story’s indecisiveness and unbalanced screenplay; it ultimately detracts from the overall experience. I admire and commend what the filmmakers were trying to do with these quieter and more character driven sequences. They just never really pulled it off and succeeded in their goals.

Fury film

If you are telling a story that focuses on a group of men in the midst of war and hell itself, their trials and tribulations as they battle through death and despair, then you better make sure those characters are pretty darn authentic and well rounded. Which brings me to Fury’s second biggest issue, the characters. Despite the slightly unimaginative and predictable plot, in which I was begging for them to throw us a few curveballs (that’s a baseball metaphor for all you Yanks out there) and twists, particularly in regard to its ending and the fate of the film’s POV character. My biggest gripe with the film is arguably, the one thing that really needed to work more than anything else – the characters.

The characters aren’t terrible, as many critics have suggested, they are just a hugely wasted opportunity. They never quite felt like real, grounded human beings, instead they were simply vehicles for delivering forced and often patronising messages and ideals. I only wish the film had made me really care and invest more in Wardaddy and his men. If it had, then the film’s conclusion would have been far more powerful and emotional.

However, unlike the chaos the film is set in, it’s not all doom and gloom. I thoroughly enjoyed this film and was on the edge of my seat for most of its running time. The reason I listed my main issues with it is because those handful of problems prevent Fury from becoming a great film rather than just a good one. Trust me when I say there is far more to like in David Ayer’s war flick than there is to hate.

The film features excellent direction, Ayer’s masterful control of the scale and action is in many respects awe-inspiring. He places the audience right in the heart of the action, on the front line, right in the driving seat. It’s dazzling. There is a sense of uneasy and gripping tension within its pace, a quality being lost in many recent action films. The film provides an intimate and unfriendly look at the large-scale war torn German battlefield. The production and costume design on display do not go unnoticed. Becoming a character in itself, creating a bleak and miserable environment, a purgatory if you will.

Roman Vasyanov’s cinematography is front and centre of this movie. It’s sublime, creating gorgeous and striking imagery. The visuals, gracefully contrasting back and forth from the confined, dark and dank belly of the tank to the sometimes beautiful and stretching German landscapes. The glow of German machine gun fire magically illuminating against the smoke filled night sky. It’s a beautiful film to behold.

Ayer also attained a brilliant cast for this picture with strong performances across the board, not really a single weak link amongst them. Brad Pitt, who I feel to be fairly inconsistent with his performances and only giving one real performance of any note, as the famed outlaw in The Assassination of Jesse James (2007), gives a strong and stern delivery here and his crewmen follow suit.

All in all, despite Fury’s uneven screenplay, its reliance on Hollywood war movie tropes and weak characters; it completely delivers in being one of the most visceral and entertaining films of 2014.

Some of the coverage you find on Cultured Vultures contains affiliate links, which provide us with small commissions based on purchases made from visiting our site. We cover gaming news, movie reviews, wrestling and much more.