The smoke of burning buildings fills the picturesque German village. An old man lies on the pavement in a pool of blood created by the bullet wound in his head. A schoolboy is hanging by his neck from the first floor of a building on the village’s square.
No, Quentin Tarantino hasn’t got hold of the Hangover franchise. This is the bitterly cold outdoor set, somewhere in rural Oxfordshire, of writer-director David Ayer’s new Second World War adventure, Fury.
It follows the story of a five-man US tank crew – Brad Pitt, Logan Lerman, Shia LaBeouf, Michael Peña and Jon Bernthal – and takes place on one day in April 1945, very near the end of the war, a point at which Allied forces had crossed the German border.
“No one’s really done a movie about this stage of the war,” says Ayer. “The US Army was falling apart like a band of gypsies at this point. They were now invaders and not liberators, which is a very different dynamic.”
Pitt leads a war-hardened crew, which is joined by fresh-faced recruit, Lerman. He, according to Ayer, is our window on this dark period, during which retreating SS officers would order all citizens to take up arms or face execution (hence the hanging child).
“It’s allegorical of wars today where you’re dealing with total fanaticism,” says Ayer. “A child could be the enemy, a woman could be enemy. It’s a very morally ambiguous environment.”
“My character didn’t want to be there,” adds Lerman. “It’s right at the end and everybody wants to go home, but at the same time they’re in the enemy’s land. It almost becomes guerilla warfare.”
Ayer, a former US Navy submariner, knows plenty about living at close-quarters, which means no let-up for the cast. They did all the internal shots squeezed into a near-exact replica of a Sherman tank’s oppressive innards, went through a rigorous pre-shoot boot camp and, according to Lerman, were forced to physically fight each other every morning. Just bear that in mind the next time you complain about the height of your desk.
Fury is at cinemas in October