Mad Max: Fury Road
Directed by Geroge Miller. Starring Tom Hardy, Nicholas Hoult, Charlize Theron, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, Zoë Kravitz, Riley Keough, Nathan Jones, Megan Gale, Angus Sampson, Abbey Lee, John Howard, Josh Helman, Courtney Eaton, Hugh Keays-Byrne. Written by George Miller, Nick Lathouris, Brendan McCarthy.
The Road Warrior rides on in Mad Max: Fury Road, as a single action setpiece is stretched out over the course of a whirlwind two-hour movie. George Miller’s post-apocalyptic re-imagination of his Mad Max franchise, last seen with Mel Gibson 30 years ago in Beyond Thunderdome, is an assault on the senses so relentless that it seriously up the game on this year’s blockbuster hits like Furious 7 or Avengers: Age of Ultron.
Clearly, the 70-year-old Australian director can still teach a thing or two to his decades-younger contemporaries.
Tom Hardy’s Mad Rockatansky sets the stage for the action in opening narration; for those familiar with earlier films, it’s the familiar post-apocalyptic wasteland where the titular character has gone mad after the deaths of ones he couldn’t protect (in the original film, it was his wife and daughter; here, that’s a little more vague).
Hardy’s narration is thankfully brief as we watch Max chow down on a two-headed lizard, but it’s just about the most we’ll hear out of him for the duration; Gibson’s Mad Max only had 16 lines throughout the entirety of The Road Warrior, and Hardy doesn’t have much more than that here.
Not fifteen minutes into the movie, we’re in the midst of a desert chase sequence that will consume nearly the entire film: one-armed heroine Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron) has double-crossed Immortan Joe, the mad leader of a desert city. As Furiosa drives Joe’s big rig off course, the crazed ruler, his minions, and neighboring wasteland cities all converge upon her – and Max finds himself caught in the middle of it all.
The film is wall-to-wall action, and it’s simply wonderful: beautifully choreographed and edited with a exacting sense of spatial awareness – during all the relentless action scenes, we always know where the characters and objects are in relation to each other, a lost art in most modern action films.
The whole thing is a riff on the climax of The Road Warrior, the best of the Mad Max movies, which features some of the most amazing automotive stuntwork ever captured on film. We live in a different era, but Miller claims to have accomplished Fury Road using 80% practical effects and only sparse CGI to remove wires, etc. While the vehicular stunts here are crazier than anything seen in Furious 7, they feel far more realistic – because they are real (well, kinda.)
In the midst of all the awe-inspiring action, these are the reasons I loved this film:
- A chainsaw fight atop the rig driven by Furiosa.
- The fact that the lead character wears a muzzle throughout the first half of the movie, and rarely utters anything other than a growl.
- Character names that include The Bullet Farmer, Rictus Erectus, and The Splendid Angharad.
- A truck outfitted with massive speakers, four war drummers pounding away in the back, and a mad guitarist who wears an onion mask and a red Santa jumpsuit. His guitar doubles as a flamethrower, because why not.
- The film’s chief villain, Immortan Joe, played by Hugh Keays-Byrne – who was also the main villain Toecutter in the original 1979 Mad Max. Joe is only seen beneath a Bane-like skull mask, and his body is covered by a clear protective gear that covers a skin condition.
- Joe’s right-hand man, Corpus Colossus, played by Quentin Kenihan, an actor affected by a rare bone disease who stands less than one meter tall; he’s a nod to Master Blaster from Beyond Thunderdome.
- Nux (Nicholas Hoult), one of Immortan Joe’s white-skinned, shaved-head, howling mad War Boys, who has a genuinely affecting character arc accomplished amidst all the action.
- A quintet of beautiful women – played by Zoë Kravitz, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, Riley Keough, Abbey Lee, and Courtney Eaton – make their unexpected debut wearing precious little and use bolt cutters to remove chastity belts that feature teeth as a preventative measure.
- The pulse-pounding soundtrack that never lets up during the action scenes, composed by Junkie XL.
- A scene in which a wrench is fastened to the steering column of the big rig after the steering wheel is yanked off in the action.
- Max, kept alive because of his universal-donor blood type, driven into battle chained up at the helm of a war vehicle because Nux needs to finish a blood transfusion.
- A Jackie Chan-like fight scene that features Max chained to Nux chained to a car door, and the expected repercussions of each action they take; this is how you write a fight scene.
- The colorful and vibrant cinematography by John Seale (The English Patient), which stands in sharp contrast to most desolate post-apocalyptic movies, and the desaturated color palettes that have overtaken most modern blockbusters.
See all this and so much more in Mad Max: Fury Road, and see it in the biggest and loudest cinema you can. It’s the craziest $100 million blockbuster ever made, and in the midst of all the same-old, same-old sequels and remakes crowding the multiplex, here’s one that finally feels alive.