|UK Release Date||14th May 2015|
|Reviewed||14th May 2015|
Like the cinematic equivalent of free diving for two hours, George Miller’s Mad Max: Fury Road throws you head first into an off-the-Richter road movie that will leave you, much like it’s characters, emotionally wrecked but ultimately elated. Like Burning Man, Shangri La, and day three of the Download festival, Mad Max: Fury Road is a big ol’ dusty, dirty bag of rock and roll craziness that will have you firmly gripped for 120 minutes, I even shed a few tears.
Mad Max: Fury Road is Millers’ first film since Happy Feet 2 in which Elijah Wood voiced a cute dancing animated penguin. This may explain why when let loose in the world of humans and vehicles powered by electric guitars and mega watt speakers Miller has let himself turn the crazy up to 11. The original Mad Max (Road Warrior) was a cult, low budget Australian movie with its roots firmly in punk and anarchy and it’s refreshing that Miller hasn’t cleaned up his act for Fury Road. Miler is bowing down to no Hollywood Gods here; Fury Road is not about heroics or appealing to mass markets, it’s about the bloody, filthy, dangerous and necessary wheels of a revolution. Hats off to the 70-year-old Miller to making a ‘sequel’ to a movie over thirty years old and not selling his ethics down the river in order to do so. I doubt kids will be playing with an Imperator Furiosa doll anytime soon - more’s the pity.
Our hero (of sorts) the infamous Max Rotansky is living hand to mouth, a scavenger hunted by scavengers and haunted by the past, he has finally been caught by a tribe of War Boys who bow to a cruel despot Immortan Joe. Immortan Joe is the kind of leader that keeps his world up high, away from the water starved masses below whilst he lives in a green lush world where mothers milk is a high commodity and women are kept as breeders in a high domed room far away from grabbing hands. Max becomes a blood bag, a human diffusion machine to keep Nux, a sick War Boy whom like the others believes by serving Immortan Joe he will see an afterlife, in death he will see glory and be free from his illness. Chained to him, hanging upside down like a bat as the life slowly drips out of him, it’s not quite the Max we were expecting. All this is about to change though; as Immortan Joe gathers his ‘subjects’ to wave off Imperator Furiosa, a shorn haired, prosthetic limbed, dead eyed female on a gas and bullet gathering mission things go up a notch as Furiosa has embarked on a mission of salvation and is freeing Immortan Joe’s desperate and abused ‘Wives’ to a better world, to the 'Green Place'. Cue vehicles, chases action and chaos and a thrill ride of a lifetime.
Relentless action sequences in big movies often leave me cold because deep down I feel a bit cheated, that they are ‘set pieces’, crowd pleasers there to satisfy a modern audiences need for BIG EXPLOSIONS and POINTLESS STUFF. Miller is not playing to this crowd. The action sequences are relentless, there is rarely a moment of downtime but the action is used for a reason. Nothing is pointless and nothing is thrown in and then not followed through. There is action and there is reaction. It is highly imaginative; despite mostly being one vehicle being chased by War Dogs in other aggressive vehicles it is never repetitive or boring. The sheer level of imagination deserves applauding. The scenes are well executed and always with intelligence, originality and humour.
Although the aesthetics of the past Max movies are clear and present in this one, cinematic technology has obviously moved forward since 1980 and Miller has used this in the best possible sense. There is still a lot of pleasure derived from ‘in camera’ moments. The wild imagination involved in the differing types of vehicles, costumes and characters is something else. John Seale’s beautiful cinematography makes full use of the beautiful stark landscapes. Colin Gibson’s production design is raw and stunning and funnily enough at one point as they travel across the terrain I did find myself reminded of Priscilla: Queen of The Desert which he also worked on. See if you can see the bit I mean…. The script, by Miller with Brendan McCarthy and Nick Louthairs is lean and mean, there aren’t a lot of words being uttered here when a nice piece of action or a wide shot can convey what’s needed; but that is not intended as a disparaging comment. Nothing is lacking, it’s economic in the best sense. Jenny Beaven’s costumes are stunning and the soundtrack is either war-mongering drums or Junkie XL’s banging beats. A cacophony of anarchy.
Let’s get one thing straight here, Charlize Theron is not badass ‘for a woman’, Charlize Theron is JUST BADASS. Like Ripley in Alien her sex doesn’t come into her portrayal of powerful and emotionally layered Imperator Furiosa. It is a prodigious role Miller has created and Theron has done it justice in every sense. Not once do we question her ability to kick ass in the utmost sense, she owns the role and I relished every single second of it. Miller has created a male centric universe where the females are more than equal. They are the revolution bringers in this tale but they are not trying to do it without men, just with the right people. Who’d have thought that a Mad Max film would be so feminist? The wives are strong but wise, wife Angharad calls the gun the 'anti seed - plant one and watch it destroy’. Imperator Furiosa is not trying to do anything else other than create a better world for the young females in her care than the one she has had to endure. Searching for a nirvana that may not exist anymore, she is pursuing salvation, not glory. Miller has created a world where male and females can be strong and can also be weak, can be both heroes and villains. Shame that is such an unusual feat in mainstream films today. Rosie Huntington Whitely is great as wisest favourite wife Angharad and is ably supported by Zoe Kravtiz, Riley Keough and my favourite Abby Lee. They are all distinctive and strong roles for the young actors and they handle them magnificently. There are even women OVER FIFTY with guns being tough! Shock horror! Hollywood would have us believe these women were either playing mum / grandma or dead. Unless of course you’re Meryl Streep then you can play who the fuck you want.
Tom Hardy’s Max is a man haunted by those he could not save, ghosts of those left by the wayside thwart him throughout his journey but he is still a heroic anti hero. Hardy’s Max isn’t quite the beautiful blue-eyed crazy that the young Gibson did so mesmerisingly, there is a little more camp in Hardy’s macho but it is still a commanding and memorable performance and Hardy is a presence all right. I’d happily sit through another instalment of Max’s journey with Hardy embodying the role.
Hugh Keays Burne is fantastically terrifying as Immortan Joe and lastly an unrecognisable Nicholas Hoult is simply sensational as Nux. It took me a good twenty minutes to realise it was him such is his transformation but he is just fantastic and had me crying more than once. Little tyke.
It surprised on so many levels Mad Max: Fury Road. Not only in the enjoyment of the action (which I did enjoy immensely) but in the deep level of humanity Miller has created here where so many Hollywood blockbusters fail and leave a gaping chasm of unreality and cold emotion. It’s a frenetic, fast paced, feminist thrill ride with a revolutionist punk heart and its arms wide open for hope. If you’re not on your way to the cinema to see it already…then hurry up!