“Mad Max: Fury Road” has been this strange piece of pop-culture currency. Ever since the world got its first new glimpses of George Miller’s latest post-apocalyptic action epic, it became heralded as a champion for classic filmmaking techniques and storytelling. The movie arrived in cinemas practically preordained as the summer movie messiah. It’s the golden child that will deliver us from the weak-willed studio blockbuster and heal the lame franchises that plague our cineplexes. This is it, party people: the movie that will restore the status quo to the glory days of the 1980s when “The Road Warrior” and “The Terminator” reigned supreme.
“Mad Max: Fury Road” is a roller-coaster ride. It’s a movie that relies on momentum and break-neck speed to keep audiences locked into the story. Like Miller’s previous “Mad Max” entries, this one drives down a familiar track. It’s the future and everything is terrible. The world has been reduced to a dry, desolate wasteland where the survivors struggle every day. Supplies are scarce. The two most precious resources are water and gasoline. Warring factions rule with an iron fist. This is an uncivilized world that is filled with lunatics. Max (Tom Hardy) is a lone man, who wanders the remnants of civilization, trying to survive.
The film opens with an action sequence that goes for almost a full half an hour. We spend a good 60 seconds with Max before he’s chased down by a gang of “War Boys,” which kicks off one of the craziest, longest sequences I can remember in a movie. It’s amazing to watch a filmmaker like Miller push the pedal to the metal and create something so familiar, yet so interesting.
This is a master class on action filmmaking. “Fury Road” has some ridiculously well-done sequences that feature a sense of scope and geography sorely lacking in this shaky-cam era of films, which make action sequences look like the director of photography forgot to take his seizure medication. Miller does a great job of conducting this kinetic symphony. He creates high-octane thrills with beautiful visual simplicity. The tears shed for the lack of lucidity in modern action films may be justified in a world where crying over a movie isn’t seen as a horrible character flaw.
The story follows Max as he tries to escape capture from the armies of the despotic warlord, Immortan Joe. Immortan tries to hunt down the traitorous Imperator, Furiosa (Charlize Theron), who is trying to help a group of women who had been held captive as his unwilling brides. Max is a reluctant participant in this conflict but decides to help the comely lasses escape from the super-gross dictator and his army of slave warriors.
No one will accuse “Fury Road” of being boring—a little repetitive, yes, but never boring. This is a weird movie but the good kind of weird. Miller creates a very real, very ugly world and populates it with some great characters. Max is a quiet protagonist (like the “Man with No Name”). There’s not a lot to him. It’s Theron’s Furiosa that is the heart and soul of the movie. She’s a tough-as-nails, no-nonsense warrior who is willing to give up everything to try to save a handful of innocent women.
God bless George Miller and his dedication to putting it all in front of the camera. I give him kudos for doing what any good, non-lazy, blockbuster filmmaker should be doing. After two decades-plus of filming guys who orchestrate guys in green spandex with tennis balls on a stick and calling it an action scene, we have something that shows how much more powerful well-staged effects can be to the reality of a cinematic universe. Here, the physics are real and the fire is actual fire. It’s a world where ideas are created on the field of battle, not a field of render servers that churn out one second of finished footage every eight hours.
“Fury Road” really is something interesting. I’m reluctant to call it unique because Miller has made four “Mad Max” movies and three of them are ridiculously similar. However, in this day and age of copy-and-paste blockbusters, “Fury Road” is a thrill ride with some great characters and a gripping narrative. This is one to go see in theaters, as the epic visuals and masterful score can be appreciated on a massive scale.
Mad Max: Fury Road
Starring Tom Hardy, Charlize Theron, Nicholas Hoult
Directed by George Miller