‘Mad Max: Fury Road’ (2015) Film Review

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Rated R

120 min.

Directed by George Miller

Starring: Tom Hardy, Charlize Theron, Nicholas Hoult, Zoe Kravitz, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley & Hugh Keays-Byrne

From the director of Happy Feet comes Mad Max: Fury Road, a mad-cap action masterpiece that makes every mainstream action film of the last quarter century look like, well, Happy Feet.

After thirty years away from the franchise that birthed his filmmaking career, George Miller returns to the post-apocalyptic Australian wasteland with a new leading man and a whole new bag of insane tricks. Replacing Mel Gibson in the role of Max Rockatansky is Tom Hardy, the increasingly popular Brit actor who dives into every role he takes with gleeful menace. But, while Max’s name is in the title, the main force in Fury Road is Charlize Theron’s Imperator Furiosa, a bad-ass with a robot arm and a flair for driving big rigs.

The fourth film in the Mad Max franchise, Fury Road isn’t technically a sequel or a prequel to any of the previous films, but is rather a modern-day re-imagining of Max and his mad, mad world. The story centers on Furiosa, a woman who lives to serve Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne), an unhinged maniac who is hording all the water in the wasteland. On a supply run for Joe, Furiosa sets out to escape his clutches and head for her long-lost homeland with Joe’s ‘breeders’, a collection of women he has used as his play-things and who have had enough. Along the journey, Furiosa meets Max and they team-up to fight-off Joe’s army of goons who give chase through the seemingly-endless desert wasteland.

Positives:

  • The Visuals – This film not only marks George Miller’s return to the world of Mad Max, but it also marks a return of a different kind. Cinematographer John Seale is back in the film world after recently deciding to retire, and to say he hasn’t missed a step is perhaps the understatement of the century. From its first frame to its last, Fury Road is breathtaking gorgeous. It’s incredibly saturated colors set it distinctly apart from other flavorless apocalyptic tales and by the end, you’ll have an array of striking images singed into your eyeballs. And then there’s the non-stop, ever-moving camera. It wouldn’t be a George Miller experience without it, and thank god for that.

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  • The Action – Many hardcore film fans consider the original Mad Max films groundbreaking in terms of their practical, thrilling stunts. Well, times may have changed, but Miller’s love for tossing cars around in the desert certainly hasn’t. Fury Road essentially functions as one extended car chase, complete with spiked big rigs, tanks, motorcycles, pole-riding nut-jobs, and a flame-shooting guitarist. Honestly, what more could you want? The stunts are absolutely insane and the collection of set pieces on display absolutely rank among the most mind-blowing ever filmed. This isn’t just an action film, its a fireworks display, and George Miller lights the fuse, over and over again.   
  • The Insanity – Faces are torn off, spray paint is ingested, and nipples are clamped and milked. Yeah, just another day in the world of Mad Max.

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  • The Feminist Edge – As I previously alluded to, the focus of the film isn’t so much on Max himself, but rather on Charlize Theron’s Furiosa. She is the character on this journey, driven to protect the women around her and to get home at any cost. She doesn’t take crap from anyone, particularly Max, as displayed in their first meet-and-fight. Much has been made of the fact that this is one of the rare contemporary action films that has a decidedly feminist edge in that is portrays its collection of female characters as strong-willed individuals who are tired of being treated as just another man’s ‘thing’. They are willing to fight for what they believe, and aren’t afraid to stab, shoot and claw their way through the desert. Now don’t get me wrong, Tom Hardy is a seemingly perfect fit for Max and performs plenty of badassery himself, it’s just that Furiosa and the gang take it truly to the next level.

Negatives:

  • It Makes Every Other Contemporary Action Film Look Weak By Comparison – Yeah, it’s that good.  

In a just world, where the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences was more interested in truly original filmmaking rather than typical prestige fair, Mad Max: Fury Road would be a legitimate contender at next year’s Oscars. What George Miller accomplishes in the film, at the age of 70 I might add, should make an entire generation of filmmakers step up and wonder, “Where did I go wrong?” This is a directorial tour-de-force, and a truly incendiary work of jaw-dropping, hardcore art. Miller doesn’t so much as etch this post-apocalyptic wasteland into your mind as hammer it home until you can’t take it anymore.

Mad Max: Fury Road is a unique movie-going experience, one that isn’t really like anything else you’ve seen before. It’s not only the best action film is recent memory, it’s a stone cold classic that may just stand the test of time as one of the all-time greats.

Now, can George Miller possibly top this with his already planned sequel? Who knows?

But, I think it’s safe to say, he’s gonna try.

Oh, what a lovely day.

10/10