Tank warfare in the final days of World War II sounds like primo escapism for action freaks. Fury, written and directed with exacting skill and aching heart by David Ayer (End of Watch), doesn’t let us off easy with vid-game violence. Ayer thrusts us into the furnace of the Fury, a Sherman tank commanded by Don “Wardaddy” Collier (Brad Pitt), until we feel as battered as the crew.
In their years with Sgt. Wardaddy, gunner Boyd Swan (an outstanding Shia LaBeouf), loader Grady Travis (Jon Bernthal) and driver Trini Garcia (Michael Peña) have tilted their moral compass to view murder as different from killing the enemy. They don’t even see the blood on their hands until the arrival of Norman Ellison (Logan Lerman), a rookie driver unprepared for combat. Norman’s horror and disgust are a cracked mirror for the crew, until Norman hardens just like his band of brothers. Ayer captures the buried feelings of men in combat with piercing immediacy. Pitt is tremendous in the role, a conscience detectable even in Wardaddy’s blinkered gaze. But it’s Lerman who anchors the film with a shattering, unforgettable portrayal of corrupted innocence. Fury means to grab us hard from the first scene and never let go. Mission accomplished.