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In April of 1945, American forces had joined the war in Germany, but their final push against the Nazis was not going as planned. Fury is the story of one of the few remaining tank crews trying to make their way to a rendezvous for an important battle, while taking towns along the way. Written and directed by David Ayer (End of Watch), the film looks at the horrors of war, while highlighting military technology and tactics rarely seen on screen.

With excellent performances and spectacular production values, Fury has the look and feel of a solid war film, however, it suffers from the era in which its script was written. In a time when we are fully cognizant of the extreme horrors of war (thanks to embedded reporting and bloodthirsty news networks), it is difficult to write about such a romanticized era without trying to make the film an object lesson in how “war is really hard.” Unfortunately, this simply sets the script up to fail because the narrative of soldier as noble savage has worn out its welcome.

There is a 20-minute section in the middle of the film in which Pitt and Lerman decide to play house with two young German women they find there. It is intended to show the dichotomy between the horrific violence of war and the desire for normalcy, but it misses this mark by miles. Watching a woman who is being wooed by a young, admittedly innocent soldier, decide to have sex with him is not, in fact, the same thing as consent when both men in her locked apartment are an invading force with guns. This entire scene is disturbing more for the real-life intention of the writer than for its implications inside the world of the film.

Despite these major flaws, however, the film is fascinating when they just get down to the actual act of war. The action is gripping, both because of its execution, and because tank warfare isn’t something that has often been the subject of major motion pictures. If you’re a World War II history fan, there is no better place to be to see the very last Tiger 1 in existence in action.

Of course the performances in this film are excellent and believable, because this is a group of very talented actors. Brad Pitt always puts in deep and nuanced performances and Shia LeBeouf proves that if he can stop his off screen shenanigans, he’s going to be one of his generation’s greatest talents. Ayer did an excellent job in taking advantage of the fact that Jon Bernthal never plays good guys, but there’s an edge to him here that makes the character more real and, frankly, terrifying.