Movie Review: Mad Max: Fury Road

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In a post-apocalyptic Australia, the titular hero is caught up in the escape of five women from the warlord king who enslaved them.

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George Miller, 2015

When we first meet Max (Tom Hardy), thirty years after his last screen appearance and with a new-actor makeover, he’s a hunted man. Living alone in the desert wasteland that was once Australia with only his car and his wits, he is quickly captured by a roving gang of drivers, who take him to the Citadel: a green oasis with an underground reservoir of water run by a vicious, miserly, icky warlord by the name of Immortan Joe (Hugh Keans-Byrne). Joe leads the gang of mutated War Boys and keeps a harem of wives in a safe. When one of his guards, war rig driver Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron), escapes Citadel with his wives, Joe leads the War Boys on a chase which Max gets caught up in. Max finds he must take sides between the women and Joe, in order to continue to survive and redeem himself for his own haunting past.

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Every so often, a movie comes along that really fucking rocks. ‘Mad Max: Fury Road’ really fucking rocks. And I mean this not just figuratively, but often literally: among Joe’s convoy there exists the Doof Wagon, an epically awesome rig with taiko drummers up bag and a wall of speakers up front, blasting out the sounds of its longjohns-wearing blind flamethrower guitar-player, The Doof Warrior. But I’m getting ahead of myself. Mad Max is a thumping rollercoaster of a movie with a world so fully realised that you can almost feel the hot sand flying in your face as the War Boys ride out after Furiosa, her massive War Rig ferrying the five gentle, capable wives to potential safety in the Green Place. The colour scheme is wickedly vivid, almost entirely bright blues and yellows, until the cars enter an endless dust storm that is occasionally washed out completely by near-constant flashes of lightning. George Miller shows a proficiency in the grammar of action filmmaking that’s tough to beat. There isn’t a scene or piece of dialogue wasted: everything exists in service of the film, with huge swathes of exposition delivered visually rather than verbally. The build to and wind-down from action scenes are perfectly paced. It’s electrifying and exciting, and on top of that, it delivers a powerful, relevant message via adrenaline-fuelled madness.

The Mad Max films depict the downfall of humanity via the scarcity of resources: first oil, then water and everything that comes with it. Humanity has devolved into a mess of violence and toxic masculinity, and this film’s message tackles that issue head-on: the quote the women write on the walls of their cell before escaping reads “Who killed the world?” The treatment of the women in this film is fantastic. The most heavily featured of these kick-ass ladies is Charlize Theron’s one-armed Furiosa, a force of supreme badassness. Theron’s so fierce in this film, it’s almost as if Furiosa is powered by sheer force of will. She’s very protective of her charges, each of whom proves to have her own abilities. Two of the wives are pregnant with the children of the vile Joe, and the film deals with the oppression of women without making them one-dimensional victims. Tom Hardy plays Max with a kind of brutal empathy. He’s haunted by visions of characters from the past films, and he’s been alone so long he can barely speak when we first see him. His time with the women humanises him again, particularly his time with Furiosa. The leads are surrounded by a plethora of carefully designed, awesome characters (DOOF WARRIOR!). The attention to detail and devotion to world-building comes across as being an across the board commitment from all the actors and filmmakers. While there is a bit of questionable accent work and dubbing (Nicholas Hoult is excellent as the surprising Nux, but I’m sure the majority of his lines were dubbed in ADR), these minor quibbles can’t even put a dent in a movie this explosively excellent.

Mad Max: Fury Road on IMDb

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