Mad Max: Fury Road has been ridiculously, uniformly, amazingly positive. Critically and with audiences, it is finding its spot in the summer blockbuster world. I really wanted to see it, but then when people were absolutely RAVING about it, I N-E-E-D-E-D to see it. So here we are. It took me a couple weeks, but away with one of the best movies of the year!
Years into the future, the world has torn itself apart, the Earth seemingly on the brink of total destruction. The land is a scorched wasteland where water, food and all the necessities for survival are in incredibly short supply. On this post-apocalyptic, scorched wasteland, a drifter named Max (Tom Hardy) is on his own, an armored car to his name with little else. He's captured by the enforcers of a brutal ruler, Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne), and kept as a prisoner and universal blood donor, but this isn't the end for this quiet drifter. Immortan Joe's brutal dictatorship is up in the air though as one of his sub-commanders, Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron), has gone rogue. The Imperator has hijacked one of Joe's armored convoys and stole five of his beautiful women breeders and is on the run. Immortan Joe rolls out his entire armored army and tears across the desert in pursuit. Along for the ride in his role as blood donor? Max, waiting for his chance to break free.
Holy crazy movie. It's been three days since I saw this movie, and I'm still recovering! Oh, totally in a good way if there was any confusion. Director George Miller directed the three Mad Max movies from the late 1970s and into the 1980s, the trilogy starring Mel Gibson as Max. Miller has stayed busy in the years since, but he returns here to put an incredible new spin on a familiar character and franchise. And that's my rule. If you're going to reboot a franchise, DO....IT....RIGHT. This film takes the elements that made the original Mad Max so popular (some in cult classic fashion), throws it in the blender, adds some new extreme elements -- I would say mind-inducing drugs -- and tears it up. As a post-apocalyptic story, as an action movie, as a gigantically successful blockbuster, 'Fury' is unlike just about any movie you've ever seen and very much for the better.
As a visual medium, in storytelling technique, in its frenetic action, Miller creates a world. His post-apocalyptic world is bizarre and trippy and unsettling and deranged and completely amazing to watch. Whole studies and papers could be written about the visual look of the world. Immortan Joe wears a bizarre suit that encapsulates its lecherous body while also favoring a mask covering his teeth that gives him a predatory look. His army of War Boys wear black pants, no shirts, have shaved heads and are painted an immaculate white. The surviving peasants wear rags, desperately awaiting handouts from Joe and his forces. It's more than that though. It's how they talk, how they interact, the culture we're introduced to, the little excruciatingly cool details. Not everything is spelled out, not everything is explained, but the trip into this drugged out, sand-ravaged world where death is incredibly cheap and even trivial, it all works. All those little things come together to work in perfect fashion, like puzzle pieces clicking into place.
So if you ask me, Tom Hardy can do no wrong. I've loved just about every role he's done, but this one is interesting. This is his first personal starring franchise as he's signed on for several more Mad Max movies, supposedly four. What's remarkable about this part? He says virtually nothing the entire movie other than one late monologue, and that's all strategy and planning, nothing personal about him. This is a performance of presence and owning the screen without much in the way of dialogue. We know little about Hardy's Max Rockatansky other than that he has hallucinations of his daughter, which clicks with the original trilogy. We know virtually nothing about him and are given even less as the money goes along. What are we left with? A man hell-bent on survival even as he's thrust into a horrific battle of life and death that he has nothing to do with. I hope the future Mad Max movies delve into Max's character and background more, but in the meantime, his presence and on-screen persona are more than enough.
Let's be honest though. This movie could have been called Mad Max and Imperator Furiosa: Fury Road. The movie's success hinges on Hardy and Theron. There just aren't many female action heroes, and Theron's Furiosa is a doozy of a success. Hair cropped close to her head, black makeup over her eyes and forehead, one-armed, Furiosa is a true film badass. She's had enough of working for Immortan Joe and steals his women, escapes and plans to resettle in the Green Place, where she grew up. It's cool to see a strong female action hero, on the same level as her male counterpart. There just isn't much dialogue for Max and Furiosa to bond, but through their horrific trials on the run, they do form an uneasy, somewhat trusting partnership. An excellent one-two punch in lead performances.
A cast member of the original Mad Max movie from 1979, Keays-Byrne is an incredible villain, an imposing and intimidating presence who's visual look is as terrifying as the character itself. His rivals turned partners are named the Bullet Farmer (Richard Carter) and the People Eater (John Howard), their armies of enforcers along for the ride. Representing the War Boys is Nux (Nicholas Hoult), a young fighter so desperately seeking and fighting for Immortan Joe's approval. With names like Toast the Knowing, the Splendid Angharad, Capable, the Dag and Cheedo the Fragile, Joe's breeding women include Zoe Kravitz, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, Riley Keough, Abbey Lee and Courtney Eaton. Also look for Nathan Jones as Rictus, Joe's muscle-bound son, always by his side ready to dispatch any enemies.
The style and world is awesome. Hardy and Theron are quite memorable. Blah blah blah. This is one of the most ridiculously entertaining, hugely stylized action movies EVER. E-V-E-R. What's special though is that Miller and Co. appeared to have actually filmed much of the action sequences. Novel concept, ain't it? Sure, there's CGI sprinkled here and there, but a majority of the action was filmed with real cars and real people doing some crazy, goofy stunts. This is a 2-hour car chase. That's it and that's all. We get little glimpses of the people, who they are and the world they live in, but this is a 2-hour car chase. Process that. It's crazy and high-reaching when you think about what Miller set out to do and then execute the plan so strongly. Max, Furiosa and the breeders end up on the War Rig, a tricked out, armored oil tanker hauling ass across the desert with warring caravans of scavengers and marauders hot on their trail. The long shots of these murdering scavengers tearing across the desert are beautiful and simple and straightforward, always keeping the viewer apprised of where the action is and how it's developing.
It's hard to put into words how visceral, how adrenaline-pumping these scenes really are. There's just this manic energy on display with each passing scene. As Tyrese said in Fast/Furious 6, it's vehicular warfare....on steroids. Immortan Joe's forces hunt them down with brutal intensity, cars and motorcycles and trucks chasing them across the desert. The action is one thing though. The execution is another. Joe's forces ride into battle to War Boys riding on trucks playing snare drums. One man wearing red footy pajamas is strapped to a truck as he plays a three-pronged guitar that is also...a flamethrower. What? WHAT?!? The score -- heavy drums, heart-pounding throughout -- from Dutch multi-instrumentalist Junkie XL is perfectly suited to the action, adding more energy and chaos (because that's what it needed) to the already energetic, chaotic, frenetic violence. Give the soundtrack a listen HERE. Watch the movie for yourself. It's better seen several times than read in a review.
What a movie. WHAT A MOVIE. A gusty script from Miller, Brendan McCarthy and Nick Lathouris takes so many chances with its sparse dialogue and almost complete lack of characterization. The formula they used instead is pretty perfect. It took me a couple days to really process this one, but I liked and loved it more with each passing day. So freaking good. It shouldn't work this well -- just shouldn't -- but it does in all its unpredictable chaos.
Mad Max: Fury Road (2015): ****/****