“Your shadow at the morning striding behind you Or your shadow at evening rising to meet you; I will show you fear in a handful of dust.” -T.S. Eliot The Wasteland
An apocalyptic story set in the furthest reaches of our planet, in a stark desert landscape where humanity is broken, and almost everyone is crazed fighting for the necessities of life. Within this world exist two rebels on the run who just might be able to restore order. There’s Max, a man of action and a man of few words, who seeks peace of mind following the loss of his wife and child in the aftermath of the chaos. And Furiosa, a woman of action and a woman who believes her path to survival may be achieved if she can make it across the desert back to her childhood homeland.
Director George Miller has created a universe unparalleled. He didn’t just envision a post apocalyptic landscape as much as he transformed the genre entirely with visceral stunt work and the omen of an increasingly desperate future. Through it all, what he developed is an icon that transcends the screen and becomes it’s own lore. It’s a difficult thing to introduce and maintain a character that becomes an ideal. Realistically only James Bond has been able to conquer such a feat. What Miller does in his latest installment of his beloved franchise is push Max into that upper echelon. The beauty of the Mad Max films is that the story is never technically told through Max’s point of view, but instead through others telling the legend of the man, allowing for different iterations and versions of the character. It’s actually quite ingenious the way the character is transitioned seamlessly from Mel Gibson’s version, to Tom Hardy.
The trailers for Fury Road promised a high octane chase film, and also begged the question “is it possible to sustain that kind of pace for 2 plus hours?” The answer is a resounding yes! From the opening scene Fury Road vibrates with the energy of a veteran filmmaker that is in complete control of his set. Mad Max is not defined by its action though. Contrarily it does something few would expect, which is to say that it’s character development is so provocatively subtle, the film layers you with carefully constructed and powerful themes on top of it’s boisterous action.
For those that have not seen any of the original films, no worries, as it will not affect your viewing experience in the slightest. There are a few nods here and there to the original that will give the fans something to be excited for (There are a couple of nightmare visions Max has of his deceased daughter), but nothing so important that it removes you from the film. Ultimately what people will likely flock to theaters to see is the beautiful chaotic action. Without knowing what skydiving is truly like, I imagine watching this movie would provide, perhaps on a more subdued level, a similar feeling of freefalling madness. It truly is the most adrenaline filled cinematic experience there is, and likely will be this year, and potentially for the foreseeable future. It’s amazing to think that at 70 years of age, George Miller is able to construct and captain such madness and corral it into a cohesive and sensible feature.
The atmosphere is similar to it’s predecessor, but with it’s own distinct and original flavor made strictly for this film alone. Miller has officially decided to push the limits of the post apocalyptic genre to it’s most logical extremes. The antagonists are no longer mere scavengers roaming the earth in search of fuel and power, but instead have become creatures of circumstance. Fury Road creates a very desperate habitat for these creatures to reside, in turn making for a very violent film. These violent acts would appear shocking in any other venue, but the atmosphere allows the violence to surpass arbitrary, and instead emerge from a complete lack of options and a firm bout of insanity. In a world where with each passing film the stakes have to be raised, Miller answers the call, by opening us to a world where it’s characters are not looking for oil, but purely clawing for survival.
Max is re envisioned, not necessarily as a warrior for peace, but more like Road Warrior’s anti-hero who still carries a strong moral compass, but is not set to attach himself to anyone or anything, perfectly content going his own way. Fury Road’s Max is still the hard fighting, intense driving machine that we’ve come to expect, stepping into the action hero role in due time, and always carrying the back story of a man trying to outrun his demons. Through it all Miller does something so unexpectedly brave. He shifted a bulk of the narrative from Max onto Furiosa. In a thematic turn, surely to annoy the most misogynistic of moviegoers, Miller Gives us the strongest feminine characters in recent memory. Allowing for women to rule the day is an interesting and exquisite idea that pays off huge dividends. From Furiosa herself to the beautiful and enigmatic “Favorite Wives” we are treated to the kind of strength not often seen from women in an action centric film. Miller even went as far as to consult with Eve Ensler, writer of “The Vagina Monologues,” to decipher how women would react in specific situations pertaining the movie. What the tandem deftly developed, was an incredible cast of intensely deep and powerful female characters that represent three generations of women fighting for their future in a world gone completely mad.
Beyond the direction and the brilliant action choreography, we are left with the films base. The movie takes place almost entirely in motion, aside from one particular centerpiece of dialogue. To be able to develop a story and create a band of characters when the story essentially consists of one massive chase scene spanning an entire desert, took some of the most ingenuitive thinking by a filmmaker that were likely to see. Tom Hardy stepping into the role of Max had large shoes to fill. The role that made Mel Gibson a star, will likely solidify Hardy’s already well known talents. There is not a plethora of dialogue for the audience to ascertain Hardy’s vision of the iconic character, instead we’re left with subtle facial expressions and body language. The limited dialogue does absolutely nothing to suppress the performance Hardy gives, and instead we are left with a more mysterious and mythic version of Max, as if he were bleak fairytale for a dying world.
Charlize Theron puts in some of the best work of her career. She artfully brings to life the drive in Furiosa’s soul and brings about this somber vision of hope for the future that allows her to push past her limits. Again the the ability for an actor to not have to rely on dialogue is a skill only acquired by some of the best. Theron does more with a searing stare or a tightly clenched jaw than most actresses could do with a entire page of dialogue. She is the center of the empowerment message behind this film, and what she does with such a complex and dynamic character like Furiosa is why the film is as inspired and beautiful as it is. She helps enliven the ideal that women are the creators of life, and therefore inherently holds hardest onto hope for the future. With the rest of the female cast, we are given small pieces of that same desolate disparity we see in Theron’s Furiosa. Each of the women in the film has a rich and vibrant personality that distinguishes them from the next and the performances indicate just that, allowing for this to be a far cry from a damsel in distress drama where the man comes to the rescue. Instead we get a female driven film with a ferocity not easily duplicated.
Nicholas Hoult and Hugh Keays-Byrne are powerfully disturbing. A great action film is nothing without a great villain, and Keays-Byrne’s Immortan Joe is a nightmarish figure fit for a menacing horror film. The best villains of course bring with them a depth that allows them to be more than just an evil entity, but Immortan Joe appears to be the exception to the rule, as he is truly terrifying form his disturbing dysmorphic body and voice mixed with a mask that would make the bravest of individuals shutter in fear. He is the boogeyman for the apocalypse and rivals Mr. Humongus from Road Warrior. Hoult brings us the depth in a villain that we desire. Nux is a young brainwashed man-creature in Joe’s army. He is an individual resigned to the ideals he was raised under, a product of nurture (or lack thereof) he is a man driven by the ideology hammered into his head, that it is his duty to die for his ruler. Hoult becomes a man without religion as the film progresses and we see a shift that feels natural in conjunction with the story. He is able to give us a multi layered character that is able to handle an epiphany that vitally changes the outcome with ease.
Mad Max Fury Road is an action film about redemption and revolution. Also a story of evolution as Miller never appears content repeating his past successes, but instead always looking for ways to evolve the story and the characters to create something new and still equally brilliant. Redefining his vision yet again, what we are left with, is the most vividly multi dimensional experience of the last 30 years. Imagining a world in which man is so destitute that they are reduced to pawns in a fight for survival, and women are clinging to their last vestiges of hope. Fury Road would be remarkable on technical achievement alone, but it never rests on its laurels and instead provides a uniquely provocative and beautiful portrait of a world gone mad. Again reinvigorating an old tale yet making it wholly original and distinctive from it’s predecessors Mad Max is somehow humble and yet indomitable. Not about conventional heroism, but placated on the depth of its underlying themes and characters. Fury Road is a boldly hallucinatory high octane chase film, that provides a ironically lucid and vibrantly designed color pallette. Simply put this is one of the most harrowing, intense, thrilling, and violent films of all time. It is maddeningly epic.
5/5 EPIC BRO!