2015 Oscars: Is David Ayer’s ‘Fury’ the WWII Movie to Watch Out for This Year?

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2015 Oscars, Fury
Photo: Columbia Pictures

“In the end, they would hose out the blood, slap on some paint, and grab some cooks and clerks to crew up the vehicle again,” David Ayer tells Michael Cieply at the New York Times, referring to his new film Fury, which several Oscar pundits were much higher on than I was initially, but this new editorial has me singing a different tune.

As much as I loved Ayer’s End of Watch (it made my top ten in 2012), his films have never been Oscar fodder. Even Training Day, which AYer wrote and Antoine Fuqua directed, saw Denzel Washington win an Oscar and Ethan Hawke also nominated. It didn’t, however, earn a Best Picture or screenplay nomination. Add to that the dismal reaction to Ayer’s Sabotage earlier this year from critics and audiences alike (I’ve still yet to see it) and it just appears he’s a filmmaker with a touch outside the Oscar realm.

Enter Fury, starring Brad Pitt, Shia LaBeouf, Logan Lerman, Michael Peña, Jon Bernthal and Jason Isaacs, a World War II film centered a battle-hardened army sergeant named Wardaddy (Pitt) as he commands a Sherman tank and her five-man crew on a deadly mission behind enemy lines and it sounds every bit as nasty as you’d expect.

“Piercing his brainpan with a CRACK,” is how Mr. Ayer’s screenplay describes the move. (In Dolby Digital sound, it will be a very loud crack.) Mr. Pitt, our hero, then calmly wipes his blade clean on the German’s uniform […]

As the movie opens, they are preparing to scrape the remains of a headless buddy from the bow gunner’s seat. “I sure didn’t keep him alive,” Mr. Pitt mutters.

Cieply writes of Pitt’s Wardaddy that what he does may shock viewers who have watched American soldiers behave brutally in Vietnam War films at least since Apocalypse Now” and we’ve “rarely seen ugliness in the heroes of World War II.” Wardaddy “crosses lines, both legal and moral. Not even Lee Marvin‘s Sergeant Possum in Samuel Fuller‘s The Big Red One [Note from Brad: an excellent movie], another knife killer, went quite so far.”

Don Evans, a World War II tank gunner who advised Ayer on the film, says the film is more extreme than anything he witnessed during his 28 months overseas saying, “I am not looking forward to seeing it.” However, the film is grounded in years of research and suggests what we may see in the film when quoting Tom Brokaw‘s “Greatest Generation” which quotes one war veteran saying, “After the Germans killed my brother, I never took another P.O.W. alive.”

Fury picture
David Ayer and Brad Pitt on the set of Fury
Photo: Columbia Pictures

And when it comes to authenticity, on top of the intense, “no shaves, no showers, no plumbing” training the actors went through, vintage Shermans tanks were used, uniforms were tailor made and, apparently, a stuntman was stabbed with a bayonet after an actor mistook him for a dummy on the battlefield. The stuntman survived despite the wound being to the man’s chest. Bernthal says Ayer pushed them to behave as if “this was the last movie you were ever going to make.”

Fury has yet to be listed for any of the fall film festivals, which isn’t a huge surprise since Sony doesn’t have any set procedure when it comes to their awards titles. The film is set for a November 14 release and I expect they’ll begin showing it to critics a few weeks prior depending on their confidence, allowing buzz to build.

If Cieply’s take on the feature is anything to go by we could be looking at a multitude of nominations for the pic from topline categories, including Pitt for Best Actor and even Ayer for director with Cieply’s comparisons to Sam Fuller and Sam Peckinpah, on down to costumes and production design. Given my love of End of Watch and the work of Brad Pitt in general I can’t wait to see this movie as it just might be my most anticipated film yet to come this year.

The film will face additional World War II competition including Angelina Jolie‘s Unbroken and The Imitation Game, but each seems to come from a different angle and tone, so it should be interesting to see how each is received.

If you missed it previously, here’s the film’s trailer and for more pictures from the movie click here.