Words such as face-melting, adrenaline-fueled, high octane, nitro-injected thrill-ride, barely scratch at the gloriously-irradiated surface of this brutal, action-packed masterpiece. The franchise set the bar for the entire post-apocalyptic genre 30 years ago, and with this installment, Mad Max: Fury Road, has strapped a hydrogen bomb to that bar and catapulted a Warboy brandishing a grenade-tipped spear at it.
In a Hollywood replete with reboots, remakes and the ridiculous (I’m looking at you Jupiter Ascending) there was early speculation that George Miller’s return to the incredibly successful Mad Max franchise after 3 decades would — despite the excellent casting choices of Tom Hardy (The Dark Knight Rises, Inception) and Charlize Theron (Monster,Prometheus) — yield lackluster results on a bloated budget and a sudden, disgruntled surge in Beyond Thunderdomeinternet streaming. But within the first five minutes of the film all fears are cast aside and the viewer is torn out of their seat, yanked through the movie-screen and unapologetically hurtled into the visceral world of George Miller’s wonderfully-twisted imagination.
Feeling less like a reboot every second and more like a ‘continuing saga,’ Mad Max: Fury Road kicks us right into the action with a cryptic, never telling us too much (but just enough if you’ve never seen a Mad Max movie before), voice-over narration. Hardy’s gravelly baritone rumbles in the background as we watch him attempt to escape a horde of fearsome, powder-painted men in a signature ‘show don’t tell’ style which continues gloriously throughout and could easily serve as a teaching tool for young film-makers.
Miller balances action and narrative so effortlessly, you feel equally thrilled by both.
Hardy’s take on Max is singular, never attempting to reach Mel Gibson’s iconic charm, but instead offering a gruff gravitas that only accidently charms. His presence fills the screen with the dark brooding of a man who has suffered, is suffering, and may be driven insane at any moment. His Max is the quintessential anti-hero, thrust into situations where he doesn’t necessarily choose to be ‘good’ but rather chooses to survive and ‘good’ can either come along for the ride or not.
Offering us the true hero in this film is Theron, who has rendered one of the strongest heroines I’ve ever seen. Her take on Imperator Furiosa, a ranking member of that fearsome horde that captured Max in the beginning, takes us on a journey of redemption that is no simple plot device but the tortured journey of a woman trying to find her humanity.
In fact, there are quite a number of incredibly strong female performances throughout– but most impressive is the way in which these characters are written. Miller has crafted three-dimensional, female action heroes that kick as much ass (if not more) than Max himself; and this will be the subject of great praise and great debate in the weeks to come.
Hugh Keays-Byrne plays Immortan Joe, the terrifying Warlord of the Horde of white-dusted mutants chasing down Max and Furiosa throughout the film. Among the other easter eggs and subtle tributes to the original film of 1979 peppered within Fury Road is the fact that this was the same actor who played Toecutter (the main villain). Keays-Byrne gives us all the unsympathetic, gut-wrenching brutality we deserve in a villain and is able to convey an unstoppable menace from within a skull-mask and behind the wheel of his custom war-machine while simultaneously commanding the devout worship of his cult-like followers.
Almost ninety percent of the film takes place as a rampaging chase scene, and the stunt work combined with CG special effects blends into a seamless torrent of beautifully-choreographed violence that spills from vehicle to vehicle with brutal efficiency and elegant chaos. Pushed ever forward by Junkie XL’s heart-pounding, percussive music score that’s both primal and sophisticated, surging forward with the action as it explodes around us, but somehow never leaving us behind.
In short, if you enjoy things that are f-ing awesome, this movie is for you.
This review originally was published on GodHatesGeeks. Thanks to our friends on that site for allowing us to rerun it.