Written and directed by David Ayer
Opens: Oct 17
Runtime: 134 minutes
Starring: Brad Pitt, Shia LaBeouf, Logan Lerman, Michael Peña
Brad Pitt’s Wardaddy leads a small band of American soldiers, the U.S. 2nd Armored division into Germany in the waning days of World War II. The idea of pitching battle against 300 Nazis enroute to face them seems suicidal but War Daddy reaches deep into his reserves to renew his courage and the will to lead his men. In any other kind of film, he would be played as “inspirational” but in this raw, weary landscape, there is no sentiment. It’s one step forward at a time, through explosive territory where death is a certainty.
His men are what you might expect after months of fighting in a hostile environment that calls on their fortitude and ability to survive each day. They’re a ragtag bunch, mostly uneducated, from lower class households, who might have been looking for adventure or patriotic glory when things started. But at this point they’re running on empty, bravely facing the strong possibility that they will die in battle.
The sensation of a world gone crazy is strong, as they deteriorate, and the people they meet, particularly a couple of German girls who pay the price for being born German at that time. The world seems to be collapsing and that’s one of Fury’s great strengths, the way it puts us in the fog of war.
The filmmakers used a Tiger 131 tank from the UK’s Bovington Tank Museum, the only fully functioning Tiger tank in the world. Its lumbering gargantuan bulk is frightening to enemies, its gun blast terrifyingly pre-emptive. It makes a memorable appearance cutting through bodies and mud with deafening noise. Its interior, home to the unit, is impossibly cramped.
There’s majesty to the film that comes through in some of Pitt’s rousing speeches and in moments of silence when we have the chance to survey the detritus of war, human and otherwise.
Pitt’s performance as Wardaddy is so good. It’s a masterpiece of understatement and minimalism. It doesn’t take much to express what he’s experiencing. It doesn’t need colour. It’s a grind, it’s dark and dreary and dangerous and Pitt’s stark, cool work is the only way to go.
Shia LeBeouf’s suitably unloosed as a medic in acute trauma. He can function to stitch up the men but he’s losing his mind. It’s a good performance; you can see the confusion in his eyes and face and in his body language.
Logan Lerman is the raw green recruit, a young clerk typist who was assigned to the tank unit because he was needed. His initiation into the cruelty and inhumanity of war terrifies him and sets his moral tone. It’s interesting to watch him change and imagine how his experience was like so many young men who went to war.
The standout stars are Pitt and the Tiger tank; they are etched into this film like rock. They are strong, solid and unstoppable. An amazing film.