By: Mark McNall & Collin McLaughlin
During the Second World War, the widespread use of tanks shaped the face of battle in fundamental ways. The First World War was fought in trenches, while WWII was fought in open fields and cities, where tanks played a major role. Mastering the techniques of this new type of warfare was challenging and very crucial to success. The experience of tank combat is explored though the character of Norman Ellison (Logan Lerman) in the movie Fury.
Set in Germany, 1945, a few weeks before the final surrender of German forces, and directed by David Ayer, Fury follows the story of Norman and his fellow soldiers as they advance across the German countryside. We meet “Wardaddy” (played by Brad Pitt), the tank commander to which Norman has been assigned. Norman is the newest member of the team, a group of no-nonsense and determined veterans hardened by the experience of war. Norman’s adjustment to his new life is anything but smooth, as he is compelled to kill an unarmed German soldier and witness the accidental death of a pair of very friendly civilians, and he struggles to understand the reality of his life at war. Fury shows the darker side of war and illustrates that war is not as clean and heroic as it is commonly depicted.
A positive element of the film Fury was the accuracy of its combat scenes. Although to the untrained eye the firefights may seem like a scene out of Star Wars, it is more accurate to 1940s combat than it appears. The rounds being fired by both the Americans and the Germans that seemed to almost glow like lasers through the air. This is due to the use of tracer rounds loaded periodically into the weapon’s feeding systems; this is a very common military practice. These tracer rounds, composed of chemicals at the base of a projectile, ignited when the cartridge or projectile is fired. The bright chemical trail allows a weapon’s operator to “walk in” their fire on a target, removing the need to aim accurately down the sights for each shot.
The tank on tank battles in the film are also very accurate in terms of numbers and movement of American Sherman tanks against German “Tiger” tanks. While watching the gruesome, yet exhilarating, combat scenes Fury has to offer one cannot help but to cringe from the sheer brutality of the portrayed warfare. Not only did soldiers have to deal with the power of a tank blast, the tanks often also had machine guns as secondary weapons, and also tanks could drive over any obstacle. Tanks were often used to crash through walls to make paths for soldiers. Fury is able to capture the compelling drama of tank warfare without sensationalizing or glorifying the violence.