Mad Max: Fury Road Review


Holy shit.

Thirty years is a long time to wait for a new installment in a film franchise, but Mad Max: Fury Road overcomes this problem for a variety of reasons. Firstly, director George Miller simply doesn’t care if you’re familiar with what’s come before. He’s also smart enough to forge a path down Fury Road that avoids Reboot Alley, Sequel Street, Prequel Avenue, and Remake Boulevard. This Mad Max is its own movie, which is wildly refreshing. Even more importantly, it’s an insane orgy of fire and carnage that contains more originality and vision in its first 15 minutes than did last year’s entire summer movie season.

Tom Hardy is the new Max Rockatansky, and we’re reintroduced to the road warrior just as he gets picked up by a rabid band of War Boys, the white-skinned lizard-like army that worships the old tyrant Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne). While Max is being held as a source of blood for sickly War Boys like Nux (Nicholas Hoult), one of Joe’s most loyal soldiers betrays him. The Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron) absconds with Joe’s most powerful rig and five of his most desired breeders.

I’ve already said it, but it bears repeating: It doesn’t matter that you don’t know what this stuff means. It’s all there, and it all makes sense in the context of what’s on the screen. By the time Max is hooked, masked, and strung up on the hood of Nux’s vehicle, we know everything we need to know about this world, its inhabitants, and their motivations. Why does Furiosa have a mechanical arm? Doesn’t matter. What’s the deal with all the breast milk? Doesn’t matter. Why is there a guy playing a guitar that shoots flames in the midst of all this carnage? Doesn’t fucking matter.

That balls-to-the-wall, I-don’t-care-what-you-think style of filmmaking is cool, but it also serves a purpose here. It forces you to constantly stay in the moment. These characters don’t digress, and they rarely pontificate. Their pasts, fears, and hopes will sometimes define their choices and actions—like Furiosa’s decision to take the women away from Joe—but they aren’t things that need to be discussed and debated. The thing they’re most concerned about is survival, and the thing they’re second-most concerned about doesn’t exist. That state-of-mind is not just apparent, but tangible in every sweet frame of this movie.

And the actors convey this state-of-mind perfectly. Neither Tom Hardy nor Charlize Theron says much over the course of the film, but they don’t need to. They’re two of the finest actors of their generation—capable of relaying more with a look than could any amount of words. (With this film, Tom Hardy reclaims the title of best male actor from Joaquin Phoenix in my mind, but we’ll see what Irrational Man brings later this summer.) In their eyes are a lifetime of pain and exhaustion, but there’s also a fire and a fight that burns as brightly as any explosion we see over the film’s two hours.

And there are a lot of explosions, a lot of fire in Mad Max: Fury Road. On Miller’s monochromatic desert backdrop, it looks amazing. Perhaps more amazing than the blazing reds and oranges are the night scenes’ sumptuous blues. Even in 3D, the film’s colors pop spectacularly, and you’ll be treated to some eye-popping moments, especially toward the film’s finale. (You won’t find a better post-conversion than this.) Let’s not screw this up; John Seale needs an Oscar nomination here.

I’m not sure where the Mad Max series goes from here, but I don’t really care. I’m happy that a film like this can get made today. I’m happy that Miller revived this character to tell an important story that strives to advance the cause of feminism in film. Hell, I’m simply happy that there are people as creative as those behind this movie working in the industry. It’s easy to forget that with so much disposable nonsense out there. But this film refuses to go down that road, and the result is something that sets the bar high, not just for the summer of 2015, but for every studio, every filmmaker, every creator.

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