Intense, visceral and unpredictable war flick

I’m not sure yet about David Ayer. He wrote the acclaimed Training Day and wrote and directed the excellent End of Watch. But he’s also responsible for the iffy Schwarzenegger vehicle Sabotage. Fury is not quite Saving Private Ryan, but it comes close and it can take its place confidently in the pantheon of classic World War II combat movies.

Brad Pitt disappears into the role of the tank commander nicknamed “Wardaddy,” Shia LaBeouf (welcome back!) is a revelation as “Bible,” Jon Bernthal is scary as the war-deadened “Coon-ass” and Michael Pena’s the Chicano “Gordo.” The story progresses through the eyes of clerk/typist-turned-gunner Logan Lerman, who’s too green to have a nickname. Their Sherman M4 tank becomes isolated behind German lines during the last days of the war, where they’re outnumbered and outgunned by vicious and desperate enemy forces.

The action scenes are terrific, but it’s during the down times that the film shines. One 15-minute sequence, involving a pair of women hiding in an apartment, is the best thing in the movie, brimming with suspense, dread and an unexpected sensitivity. Then it’s back to the daily business of not getting killed. Intense, visceral and unpredictable. And muddy. Very muddy. (134 min)