Starring: Tom Hardy (Locke), Charlize Theron (Monster), Nicholas Hoult (X-Men: Days of Future Past), Hugh Keays-Byrne (Mad Max), Zoe Kravitz (Divergent), Rosie Huntington-Whitely (Transformers: Dark of the Moon)
Director: George Miller (Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior)
Writers: George Miller and Brendan McCarthy and Nick Lathouris
Runtime: 2 hours
Release Date: 14 May (UK), 15 May (US)
In what is possibly the biggest gap between instalments of a franchise, it’s been thirty years since Mad Max last rode across the wasteland in Beyond Thunderdome, but whilst original star Mel Gibson may now have retired the role, director of the original trilogy George Miller is still holding on at the grand age of 70. Miller has actually been planning Fury Road for over a decade now, with various false starts over the years and, even after getting the ball rolling (shooting began in 2012), some reshoots and a long post-production process have further delayed its release. But now Max is finally back, and goddamn was it bloody worth the wait. Mad Max: Fury Road has more of a premise than a cohesive narrative, and what’s there is mainly to set up a series of action sequences. On first examination, this seems like a really bad idea but, much like the ragged machines the people of the wasteland drive, it works beyond all reasonable expectations. Once the wheels literally get rolling and things start going boom, everything clicks into place and the patchwork nature of the story becomes incredibly cohesive and durable. The pacing is expertly handled, weaving from set piece to set piece with just enough breathing space in-between the carnage. Though dialogue is sparse, Fury Road’s flawless handling of visual storytelling gets across everything you need with just raw emotions and reactions; you don’t need to be told what’s happening is crazy, it’s plainly obvious. The film hits every note possible, creating a film that is thrilling, funny, thought provoking, and even heart wrenching. No joke, I was close to tears near the end of this film, and any film that manages that is clearly doing its job at maximum efficiency.
Though Gibson’s portrayal of Max will probably still be the de facto face of the character for generations to come, Tom Hardy’s interpretation certainly lives up to the legend. Much like his predecessor, Hardy’s Max is a man of few words and defines himself instead with his tough but fair attitude. His tragic back-story is only hinted at, the only real point where knowledge of the previous films may be helpful, but that only adds to the mystique of the character. But in many ways, the film doesn’t actually belong to Max himself. That honour falls to Charlize Theron’s Imperator Furiosa, and she knocks it out of the park. Furiosa’s past is equally vague and her dialogue clipped, but again we get more than enough just from Theron’s pitch-perfect performance. She commands the screen with nothing more than a determined glare and a badass prosthetic arm, and for stretches of the film you’ll forget that Max is even there…and that’s not a bad thing. Furiosa’s posse of runaway breeders (yes, that’s what they’re called in the movie) are just defined enough by distinct looks, personality and crazy names (one of them is called The Splendid Angharad. ‘Nuff said.), and the gang of gun-toting grannies they meet up with later are equally fun characters. In the midst of all the explosions and testosterone, Fury Road has a surprisingly strong feminist message. At its core, it’s a story about a group of women who are tired of being treated as objects and decide to fight back against their oppressors, and Max just happens to be along for the ride. Nicholas Hoult’s Nux adds a surprising amount of heart to the film, mainly because he goes through the biggest arc over the course of the story. Starting out as a devout worshipper of antagonist Immortan Joe (Keays-Bryne), his development from there is surprisingly touching and you’ll be rooting for the skull-faced nutter by the end. Immortan Joe himself is as ridiculous a villain as you’d expect from a Mad Max film; though not quite as memorable as the likes of Lord Humungous or Master Blaster, he is a vile and threatening foe with a cool look and an awesome voice, and that’s all you really need.
As mentioned before, most of the attention has been paid on the spectacle of the film and it’s a risk that pays off with interest. There is not a single frame in Fury Road that is dull, no matter the situation. When cars aren’t flipping and guns aren’t firing, there’s always something to look at: the beautifully pristine desert landscape, the intricacies of the production and costume design, the gorgeous use of colour, or even just an interesting camera move or angle. DOP John Seale’s work here is just phenomenal, a true gem in his already long and stellar career, and it certainly puts the camerawork on almost all blockbusters to shame. Along with the cinematography, the editing is excellently attuned, cutting to increase impact but also allowing shots to hold when needed, as well as great use of both slow motion and sped-up footage. The score by Junkie XL is a monster befitting of this movie, combining metal, rock, electronic and orchestral music to craft a soundscape that accentuates the action unfolding onscreen, rounding out this impeccably crafted piece of movie magic.
Mad Max: Fury Road is an adrenaline shot of filmmaking from start to finish. Its unorthodox approach to storytelling eschews traditional structure and pacing to craft a tale in a new and exciting way, relying on pure imagery to convey its bombastic narrative. The characters are drawn with broad but striking strokes, and you’ll be strongly connected to them despite most of them barely uttering a word. The action sequences are some of the best in recent cinema history, avoiding all the clichés and failures of the genre to create a rollercoaster experience both in terms of thrills and emotion. It’s like an insane 80’s B-movie, but one made with thought, effort, and enough of a budget to match its deranged aspirations. After it was all over, all I wanted to do was turn back around and experience it again. I cannot recommend this movie enough, so get out to your local cinema and support this movie with your hard-earned cash. It doesn’t just deserve your time. It demands it.
FINAL VERDICT: 10/10!