Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)
Director: George Miller (Mad Max, Babe, Happy Feet)
Starring: Tom Hardy (Locke, The Dark Knight Rises, Inception), Charlize Theron (A Million Ways To Die In The West, Prometheus), Nicholas Hoult (X-Men: First Class, X-Men: Days of Future Past).
Director George Miller gives us a new installment in the Mad Max series that’s as psychotic as the films produced over three decades ago.
There’s always a fear of not living up to expectations when a director returns to their work, years after their last attempt. George Lucas returned to produce the Star Wars prequels over a decade after Return of the Jedi, with a middling reception. Steven Spielberg returned to Indiana Jones almost two decades after The Last Crucade and while it was generally well received, fans felt they didn’t get the film they waited 19 years for.
Mad Max: Fury Road is without a doubt worth the wait, and if it asked me to stick around, I’d do so in a heartbeat.
The film shines through its show, don’t tell motif, the majority of Max’s lines being delivered right at the beginning, with the rest of the movie’s dialogue sprinkled throughout the rest of the ride. Striking imagery and camerawork fills in what you need to know, the musical score tells you if there’s impending danger or if you can relax for a while (spoiler: you can’t, ever). You can learn so much about the characters and the world they exist in just through observing, and it all feels so natural and grounded. Post-apocalyptic films suffer from a lack of belief, but there’s a real humanizing element in Nicolas Hoult’s character Nux. He’s a war-boy with an insane attitude that drives his desire to reach Vahalla, but soon enough he learns the truth about his utopia and he becomes very, well, human after a conversation with one of the female protagonists.
Tom Hardy’s portrayal of Max sits well in the barren, desert environment of the film. He commands an enormous presence on screen through body language and facial expressions, there’s no doubt that this character has not only done things before, but he’s still capable of doing said things whenever he should decide. However, there’s no doubt that Imperator Furiosa, portrayed by the wonderful Charlize Theron, is the star of this movie. Furiosa is as badass as her name implies, a soldier with a mission to reach the Green Place. Her hard, glazing stares inform us that she’s no stranger to action and danger, and more notably her prosthetic arm hints at a back-story that’s begging to be explored. Furiosa embodies the spirit of the great female protagnists that have come before, like Terminator 2‘s Sarah Conner and Sigourney Weaver’s Ripley in Alien.
Courtney Eaton, Riley Keough, Zoe Kravitz, Abbey Lee Kershaw and Rosie Huntington-Whiteley star as the wives of antagonist Immortan Joe, played by Hugh Keays-Byrne. These wives are escaping from Immortan Joe, proclaiming they are no longer his property, and while damsel in distress may be your first thought, they play an integral part in attempting to achieve their freedom. They each have wonderful names like Toast the Knowing and The Splendid Angharad. Max and Furiosa soon reach up with other friendlies, more women, and they decide that they only way they can make a difference is to try and change mankind. While the men are out for blood and revenge, the women are set out for redemption, something stated by Furiosa herself. The empowerment of women is wonderful to see, and the film definitely has a feminist sub-text, though not because of any set-agenda or because of any singular “strong, female protagonist”.
The film as a whole is essentially one-giant chase scene that’s an assault on your audio-and-visual senses. Miller blends a perfect cup of CGI and practical stunt work that will no doubt leave you riding the edge of your seat like a seesaw. It’s a title that shouldn’t often be given out, but Miller is a visionary, and I’m glad that he finally got the time and budget to produce a movie that seems to hit every single target he aimed for. Mad Max is almost a dialogue silent movie while also being one of the loudest films I’ve watched in years.
The world building is reminiscent of John Wick‘s assassin hotel; there’s hints of a world outside our characters and it makes you want to see and learn more. The camera-work was tremendous, creating an atmosphere in fight scenes that felt like it really was a struggle to survive in the horrible wasteland. The relationship between Max and Furiousa is never truly defined, they both have a common goal to survive and through that start to work together. [Light Spoiler] The parting between the two at the end was done lovingly and you get a sense that these two characters both respect one another, and nothing else. [/Light Spoiler]
Oh, and there’s a character called Coma (Doof Warrior) who plays a guitar that shoots flames. It’s brilliantly insane but makes total sense in the context of the world these characters live in.
Should you see this film? Without a doubt.
Feature image credit: Warner Bros. Pictures