Extremely well-acted and researched, David Ayer's Fury is not Saving Private Ryan nor does it have a discernible narrative storyline, but is indeed a very graphic, gripping, and gritty film that deals with what life was like for a handful of men (led by the great Brad Pitt) aboard a Sherman tank in the heart of Germany during World War II.
Within the first half hour, I figured the film wasn't going to follow a specific storyline. A new, very green crew member comes aboard the tank nicknamed "Fury", and has to deal with the other men giving him a shit load of grief given he is replacing a fellow soldier recently killed. Over the course of the movie, I figured the main hinge would be the men coming to grips with this new kid, as he tries to learn the dark realism of war and all the bloody hell that comes along with the choices made within it.
For the better part of the movie, this seems to be the case with the narrative, but by the third act, the film focuses more on this newly-minted crew, and allows time for all the men to shine through. In a way, the story veers away from the new crew member, and is able to focus on everyone instead of just one. To some critics, this was a problem. For me, it didn't bother me. I wanted to feel more for each man (and not be stuck in the point-of-view of just the new guy) and the film succeeds in doing just that.
The tank battles are awesome, and the sound design will be Oscar nominated. Fury has a real air of authenticity, down to the dirt on their clothes, the mud on the steel of the tank, and the fact that the tanks used were all real. It's especially cool that this was the first film in contemporary times to use an actual working German Tiger tank, and watching tactics involved with how to battle one with the much-weaker American Shermans was a great action piece to return to on future home video viewings.
The real up-points of the film, aside from it's visual authenticities, was writer/director David Ayer's ability to drum up the best acting possible from each and every one of the tank's crew. Brad Pitt is awesome (as he always is), and even Shia LaBeouf is fantastic (say what you will about his personal antics as of late, but the man is one hell-of-an actor). Each actor drives home the anxiety and fear involved in essentially sitting behind the wheel of an out-matched moving oven with exploding things going in and out of it.
One scene in particular that really highlight's Ayer's ability to allow the film to show us more than the camera allows is a scene where all the men are sitting around a table, discussing a time in battle that was very difficult on all of them. As one of the men tells the story, a simple cut to LaBeouf's character shows a single tear roll down his cheek. These are indeed strong, steel-sharpened men of war, but the simple reaction shows that the human conscience can only take so much until one begins to question if they're really human anymore. The scene is an indication of masterful direction, acting, and editing that transcends what is being spoken on screen.
Fury shies away from nothing, showing us exploding heads, severed limbs, and burning and squished bodies under the tread of a tank. The movie takes a moment to slow down and allow both Pitt and his new crew member (played by the nerve-addled Logan Lerman) to calm themselves and enjoy the company of a couple German women after a battle, but the reality comes rushing back in that this is a war. Some movies try in this moment to show us a lot of humanity, but this isn't a Spielberg WWII film - Fury is a dirty, grimy, mud-covered death bucket that kills everything in its path, and never forgets that history isn't always patriotic. It's violent...and at times heroic.
Oscar potential - nominations guaranteed in the Sound Mixing and Sound Editing departments. While the film may be a bit too action-y for the Academy to pick any specific actor for a nomination, I can see it nominated for a SAG award for overall performance of the cast. IF the Academy does take chances, I might see a possible dark-horse nomination for Shia LaBeouf's character, playing the religious soldier & heart of the group.
Box office potential - given the lack of war movie competition at this time of year, and given the good reception the movie has been receiving, I can see it making anywhere between $80 and $100 million domestic.