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Mad Max - Fury Road

Review by: 
Suicide Blonde
Release Date: 
Warner Bros.
Aspect Ratio: 
Directed by: 
George Miller
Tom Hardy
Charlize Theron
Nicholas Hoult
Hugh Keays-Byrne
Bottom Line: 

Mad Max: Fury Road is possibly one of the most pleasant surprises I’ve had at the theaters since Toy Story 3. The mere premise of both of those movies had me skeptical (why mess with a good thing and revive something that didn’t need it?). But both took the opportunity to really take their stories to the next level. In Fury Road, it’s been taken not just to the next level but into full-tilt batshit crazy, and that is entirely a good thing.

In a post-apocalyptic world, former cop Max Rockatansky (Tom Hardy) is living as a scavenger, cruising around in his awesome car, eating lizards, and suffering from inconveniently timed PTSD flashbacks of his dead family. He’s ambushed by a raiding party of Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne, and alumnus from the original Mad Max), a warlord with a monopoly on a water supply and a devoted following of War Boys who want nothing more than to die gloriously for him. Max is turned into a “blood bag” who can be harvested for his blood and organs (Immortan Joe and many of his War Boys are suffering from a nasty, undefined illness that causes deformities and shortens the lifespan).

Fortunately for Max, one of Immortan Joe’s henchpeople, Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron), while making a routine supply run for gas and ammunition, has enabled the escape of Immortan Joe’s “wives”—five young women held captive and forced to breed. Immortan Joe and his War Boys set off in pursuit, and War Boy Nux (Nicholas Hoult) takes Max along as his hood ornament/blood transfusion source.

And then things get really crazy.

It’s not inaccurate to describe Mad Max: Fury Road as a two-hour chase scene. Even when a chase is not actively happening, the threat of pursuit hangs overhead at all times, from the opening ambush of Max to a last, nearly hopeless bid for freedom. The action is never less than thrilling, and despite the craziness it always feels “real” thanks to the relative scarcity of CGI and the complete lack of “let’s shake the camera around to obscure what’s going on and make the audience feel nauseated” cinematography. Though the chases are so intense and full of detail as to give the movie a fever-dream quality, it’s always clear what is going on.

Speaking of fever-dream qualities, director George Miller must be commended for racheting up the crazy. From the details of Immortan Joe’s cult to the landscapes the chase goes through, it’s all the more fascinating because we are shown, not told what’s going on.  I’ve heard of some audience members complaining of not being spoon-fed the details of this world and the situation, but I find this lack of information a brilliant move—it puts the audience in the same situation as Max, who’s thrust unwillingly into things and has to figure out just what the hell is going on and what his role in it is.

Which leads us to the character development of the film, which is far stronger than one would expect. For the first time, Mad Max’s moniker seems fit. When the movie opens, Max is a near-feral scavenger whose only instinct is self-preservation. In the film’s first half, he barely speaks, often communicating through gestures and grunts, but then goes from “go along to get along,” to being an active participant in the wives’ and Furiosa’s flight to freedom. In many ways the movie belongs more to Furiosa than to Max, as she’s looking to not just help the wives but also possibly to redeem herself for what she’s had to do over the years as Immortan Joe’s henchperson. I was most pleased by the characters of the wives. When I first learned about the film’s premise, I was concerned that the wives would be mere ciphers or damsels in distress. I am glad to report this is not the case, and the wives not only are active agents in their flight to freedom, but have nicely differentiated personalities. (One wife’s actions might seem questionable, but it was very plausible to me that a person in a hopeless situation might opt for the devil she knows over the devil she doesn’t know.)

What makes the movie so amazing is also possibly its only flaw: there is so much going on that a single viewing won’t suffice. It’s astounding how much detail has gone into every element, combined with the craziness of things like the drum/amplifier/flame-throwing electric guitar vehicle (this element alone is the movie’s litmus test—if you don’t see it awesome, this movie is not for you).

Nerds, I beg you. Go see this movie. Let us have more in this series. Let’s have some more craziness in this era of paint-by-numbers movies. 

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