“Fury” announces itself as a potentially big time Oscar contender

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Earlier on today, the embargo lifted on David Ayer’s new film, the World War II tank tale Fury. While some critics weren’t blown away by the movie, plenty of others were like myself and very fond of the flick. In fact, for the most part, Ayer’s film, which stars Brad Pitt as a tank commander in the final days of the second World War, has established itself as an awards contender. After all, Oscar loves WWII and killing Nazis, something this movie has in spades. One might be tempted to take the lack of unanimous praise as a warning sign, but I think the combination of prestige, likely box office, and subject matter will make this something a voter heavily considers.

For those who don’t know anything about Fury, it’s a World War II set action-drama that depicts a 24 hour period during the final days of the war. Set deep in Germany, a tank commander played by Pitt takes part in the last of the fighting. Along with his remaining regular crew, played by Jon Bernthal, Shia LaBeouf, and Michael Pena, plus his newest addition played by Logan Lerman, their tank (aptly named Fury) moves forward, taking out whatever Nazis they can find. Of course, despite victory being imminent, that’s easier said than done. Ayer writes and directs, showing off much of the same skill that made End of Watch an underrated classic in my eyes.

There’s a solid cast on display in this film, with memorable performances from Lerman and Pitt, in addition to the best turn from LaBeouf in some time. While the Best Actor race is far too crowded for Pitt to have any hope of a nod, a Best Supporting Actor nom for Lerman certainly isn’t out of the question. The cast play their parts as closely to those from classic war films as possible, while also attempting to bring something new to the roles. For the most part, they succeed too.

One of the best elements of Fury is the technical prowess that it shows off. From the costumes and production design to the cinematography to the film editing (done by End of Watch alum Roman Vasyanov), not to mention the score (from last year’s category winner Steven Price), sound effects, and visual effects, it’s all top notch. I wouldn’t be shocked at all if the movie managed to score a handful of nominations in those fields, as the content is right up the Academy’s alley. By and large, war films tend to do well with Oscar when it comes to below the line opportunities. That could very well be the case once again with Fury.

If all goes well starting next week when it hits theaters, the movie could be in contention across the board. To varying degrees, you have to consider nominations in Best Picture, Best Director (Ayer), Best Actor (Pitt), Best Supporting Actor (Lerman or possibly LaBeouf), Best Original Screenplay (Ayer), Best Production Design, Best Cinematography, Best Costume Design, Best Film Editing, Best Original Score, Best Sound Editing, Best Sound Mixing, and Best Visual Effects. Of those categories, Picture, Supporting Actor (in Lerman’s case), Production Design, Original Score, Sound Editing, Sound Mixing, and Visual Effects are the ones that could practically happen.

On the flip side, if some of the negative reviews take hold, the tech nods might be all that the flick can muster up. The aforementioned Production Design, Original Score, Sound Editing, Sound Mixing, and Visual Effects could be the only place Fury can conceivably make a stand. My guess is that a shut out is incredibly unlikely, but anything close to double digit nominations is even more unlikely. The truth will lie somewhere in the middle, depending on what the overall reception turns out to be.

For now, Fury is at least potentially an intriguing new entrant into the Oscar race. Academy members have a soft spot for this subject matter, so if they warm to what Ayer, Pitt, and company have put forth, then we could be looking at a serious player. Even if it’s not though, I have to say that this is a high quality picture and well worth making a real effort to check out. It opens next week, so don’t miss Fury, especially if it’s about to begin a march towards a Best Picture nomination…

Stay tuned to see how Fury winds up doing on the awards front!

About Joey Magidson

A graduate of Stony Brook University (where he studied Cinema and Cultural Studies), resides in Brooklyn, New York. He contributes to several other film-related websites and is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association.

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