Updated: May 25
4K ULTRA HD REVIEW / HDR FRAME SHOTS
The Fury's final battle against a German SS Battalion.
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4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray, Digital copy; 2014; R for strong sequences of war violence, some grisly images, and profanity throughout; streaming via Amazon Video (4K), Google Play, iTunes (4K), Vudu (4K), YouTube
Best extra: “No Guts, No Glory: The Horrors of Combat”
MEMORIAL DAY is a grim reminder of the sacrifice servicemen and women have given for our freedom and the American way of life.
Sony Pictures salutes them with the May release of “Fury” on 4K Ultra HD, a story about a tight-knit American tank crew struggling to survive the final weeks of World War II in the heart of Nazi Germany.
U.S. Navy veteran and filmmaker producer/writer/director David Ayer (“End of Watch”) says he was determined not to make “everyone else’s war film,” in the 30-minute featurette “No Guts, No Glory.”
“War is a really bad thing. And anyone who’s served in the military and gone downrange, and experienced hostile fire and lost a buddy, or seen death, or seen civilian deaths knows that, knows that it’s bad….it’s carnage, it’s chaos, it’s destruction.” – Director David Ayer
He remained unwavering in his depiction of combat, revealing glimpses of the “hell that these men endured” inside the thin-skinned Sherman tank labeled “Fury.” “This dying, fanatical regime is doing everything it can to stop them,” he says.
Much of his script was based on reports, eyewitness accounts, and memoirs. “These are all things that happened in the war,” Ayer says. He viewed thousands of pictures and hours of news footage taken by the US Army Signal Corps. Images showed Allied soldiers in mud up to their knees during the spring of 1945. It was Europe’s worst winter in 50 years.
Ayer and producer John Lesher filmed “Fury” in England, where they had access to a number of armored vehicles, both German and American, and the naturally gloomy skies of the United Kingdom. Hundreds and hundreds of extras were fitted with period-accurate wardrobe, and given six-days of weapons training. The production resurrected the last-running German Tiger II tank, with its 88-millimeter gun, from a British war museum for a duel between it and four Shermans. One hit from the Tiger and the tank becomes an inferno. The only defense is hitting the Tiger from all sides; the Sherman’s strength is in its numbers.
The king of Fury's five-man crew is Sgt. Don “Wardaddy” Collier played by 50-year old Brad Pitt. He orders steering and firing commands to his crew via headsets. Wardaddy is outfitted with a shoulder holster and .45 caliber six-shooter, and his weapon of choice, a captured German StG 44, with a 30-round clip – the grandfather to the AK-47. Pitt’s military haircut, super tight on the sides and long on top, became the fashion hairstyle for men for two years after the release of “Fury.”
Wardaddy’s crew includes Michael Peña as driver Trini “Gordo” Garcia of East L.A.; Jon Bernthal as hillbilly mechanic Grady “Coon-Ass” Travis; Shia LaBeouf in his best onscreen performance as the Christian gunner Boyd “Bible” Swan, and Logan Lerman as rookie assistant driver Norman Ellison, only eight-weeks out of boot camp with no tank training. His first duty is to mop up the blood and guts from the guy he’s replaced.
Inside, the Sherman is cramped and dangerous. The men curse like no World War II film seen before, an excess of a hundred F-bombs, balanced by prayer and quotes from the Scriptures. Horseplay becomes a temporary release from their wartime nightmare.
“There’s no way you walk out of there without some kind of psychological dent.” – Brad Pitt
VIDEO Ayer shot “Fury” on 35mm film stock (2.39:1 aspect ratio) with Panavision’s anamorphic lens. It is impressively mastered in 4K with plenty of natural film grain. The colors are heavy on browns, grays and greens, with bursts of orange and red from explosions, and a shimmer of pinks and greens from tracer bullets. It’s the first WWII film to show tracers; the ammunition contains phosphorus that glows.
The Germans used green and Allies used a pinkish-red, while in the Pacific the Japanese used purple or blue. It’s a way for the machine gunner to “trace” rounds to the target. “As a kid, I was fascinated by the war footage of the Navy Corsair fighter plane over the Pacific. You’d see that gunsight footage of those tracers and they were so bright,” Ayer says.
HDR contrast toning provides a much bolder experience from dominating gray mid-tones and inky blacks. As good as the Blu-ray version looked in 2015, also sourced from the 4K master, it now seems flat and, at times, overtly toned with an unnatural bluish cast.
The 4K resolution is substantially more detailed as the Fury rolls into an Allied camp, with a camera mounted near the top of the turret and another just inches off the ground near the track showing an overall view of the muddy road and camp.
Sony's subtitles are too large for the German language scenes, overwhelming the picture compared to the original theatrical size. How about an option via the remote to reduce or enlarge the subtitles?
AUDIO The Dolby Atmos soundstage features a deep bass response from the Sherman’s engine and 75-millimeter gun, mimicking the DTS-HD soundtrack of the older Blu-ray. But, once those effects are pushed to height speakers, it produces an all-encompassing experience from the artillery shells to five P-51 Mustangs buzzing at treetop level over the Fury and four other Shermans. The dialogue and musical score from composer Steven Price (“Gravity”), who uses armory and weaponry as instruments for a primal haunting sound, are nicely balanced against thundering blasts and gunfire.
EXTRAS Sony uses the 100 gigabytes disc to handle the 4K picture and sound, plus 90 minutes of extras. There are five featurettes: “Tiger 131” footage of the German tank as hundreds arrive to see it in action; “Heart of Fury” detailing how they built the interior set of a Sherman tank – 10 percent larger than a real one – with removable panels to place the camera and lights. It can turn just like a real one; a gimbal provides the rocking motion.
“Clash of Armor” demonstrates the difference between the U.S. Sherman and the German Tiger, with its superior armor. Only 1,300 Tigers were pitted against a flood of 50,000 Shermans. The typical ploy was five Shermans against one Tiger. The Shermans would try to outflank it, but soldiers went into the manuever knowing they would lose at least one tank.
“No Guts, No Glory: The Horrors of Combat,” the making-of featurette, has cast and crew interviews. “The Tanks of Fury” is a 45-minute insider’s view of the production with interviews and behind the scenes footage from the Smithsonian Channel.
Fury” is one powerful story, especially on 4K, showing the struggle to complete the mission and keep alive until the fall of Berlin. ― Bill Kelley III, High-Def Watch producer