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MAD MAX: FURY ROAD

May 14, 2015

Film + EntertainmentReview | by Francesco Cerniglia


FURY ROAD

It’s been 30 years since Mad Max last roamed the post apocalyptic wasteland in the disappointing Beyond Thunderdome. He’s had a difficult trek returning to the big screen since then, be it through numerous production delays or Mel Gibson’s messy personal life. But he’s finally here, and boy oh boy was he ever worth waiting for! In Mad Max: Fury Road director George Miller has crafted a lean, intense and visually stunning action spectacle. One that updates his character while honouring – and in many ways surpassing – the original trilogy.

Fury Road is essentially one long chase scene. The story finds Max (Tom Hardy) captured by a diseased warlord named Immortal Joe, and in order to escape he has to partner up reluctantly with Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron). She plans to cross the wasteland with some of Joe’s precious “cargo” and she needs Max’s help to overcome the unknown dangers ahead. Joe’s army of freaks chase them relentlessly, and Furiosa’s plan isn’t going as well as she hoped.

Fury Road is a superior example of action cinema, and one that rarely pauses for breath. The story is told through the action, with exposition and character sewn into it mid-chase instead of slowing down to explain what’s happening. This could have had a suffocating effect, but the film is so well paced and shot that it never feels anything less than exhilarating. And the amount of variety results in the chases never becoming stale. Just when the viewer gets comfortable a new vehicle or threat will emerge for the heroes to deal with. The use of practical stunts and effects also gives the action a sense of grit and danger sadly absent from most CGI smash ups.

Returning to this world Miller has really let his imagination run wild. The amount of creativity that’s gone into the production design, from the costumes to the vehicles and Immortal Joe’s base, never fails to impress. Every scene or character is loaded with detail, and it’s difficult to absorb it all in one viewing. Eye-catching visuals are constantly unfolding, be it the car chase through a sandstorm or the albino musician with the awesome electric guitar… that also doubles as a flamethrower. John Seale’s cinematography is surprisingly colourful for a post apocalyptic future, framing the film mostly in eye-popping orange or cool blue.

On the acting front Hardy’s Max is a mumbling, emotionally shut-off loner. It seems almost painful for him to engage in conversation, and he mostly speaks in grunts. His terse reinvention of Max makes for an intriguing character, someone who is a hero by accident instead of choice. Theron’s Furiosa is the real heart of Fury Road though. She’s the protagonist who kicks the story into gear, with Max just along for the ride. She’s a badass warrior who is equally handy with a gun or in a fistfight, but she’s also allowed to be human and vulnerable. She has a righteous cause and she’ll die to see it through. It wouldn’t be a shock to see Furiosa joining the pantheon of great female action heroes like Ripley or Sarah Connor.

FURY ROAD

One of the most laudable things about Fury Road is that despite the huge budget increase, it’s still a George Miller film. There’s an idea that directors gradually lose their drive as they get older, and end up churning out inferiors takes on past glories. This makes some sense, as people age and their sensibilities change.

The Spielberg who made Raiders of the Lost Ark is not the same man who made Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, and the difference in quality is clear. With Fury Road however, it doesn’t matter that Miller is now 70. The passion and energy he’s infused in this new film explodes off the screen, and if anything, he’s gotten better with age. This feels like the same world he established in 1979, only now he’s better equipped to flesh it out.

It’s highly unlikely an action movie will come along this year that tops Fury Road. It’s a master class in action storytelling with likable, compelling heroes and set in a beautifully fleshed out fantasy world. Let’s just hope Max doesn’t wait so long for his next adventure.

Mad Max: Fury Road is available on DVD & Blu-ray in the UK from October 5th

Padraig Cotter