There will be many adjectives thrown about when it comes to describing Mad Max Fury Road and I can guarantee you that all of them will be accurate. Breathtaking, explosive, relentless, spectacle, intense, awesome, mind-blowing, and even epic. This film lives up to all of those and quite possibly does the impressive job of surpassing even its own origins.
Originator of the Mad Max films George Miller once again takes us to the wastelands of a post-apocalyptic future where life is barely holding on. Max Rockatansky (Tom Hardy) is roaming the desert alone haunted by his past, when he inadvertently gets swept up in a group trying to flee the clutches of Warlord Immortan Joe (Hughs Keays-Byrne). Hurtling through the desert on the War Rig, led by the Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron), she has taken the Warlord’s prized “breeders” a group of women known collectively as The Wives in an attempt for them all to start new lives. Enraged by the rebels Immortan Joe rallies his gangs in pursuit of Furiosa and Max in a thrilling road war to get back his prized possessions.
Right out of the starting gates this film erupts like a thoroughbred horse charging down a racetrack. The film is almost nonstop action, and when it does slow down, they feel like momentary pauses as you gasp for breath between having yourself immersed once again. It’s a white knuckle rollercoaster ride, even though deep down you know our heroes must surely make it to the end credits, you still have a lump in your throat whenever something looks to go wrong. Whether it’s the fight scenes of Max and Furiosa defending the rig from the War Boys, or the intense driving chase sequences. The action and the pace is unrelenting, and at bang on two hours it never once feels like it’s dragging its heels. I’d love to know what the grand total of the destruction was, as it seems like almost every ten minutes there’s another car being flipped, explosion being set off or a vehicle ending up in a thousand pieces. Almost all of which was done using real people, and real machines and very minimal CGI. A testament to Miller and his production team and all those involved behind the scenes.
To add to all of this it’s a sensory overload, particularly visually and aurally. It’s deafening to listen to as these supercharged enhanced machines literally rumble and roar as well as the musical score that is a near seamless accompaniment to all the noise and action onscreen. The sound reverberates through your body and this is what real surround sound feels like. Visually we’re drenched in yellows and browns and reds and ochre hues of the dusty dirty waste. The War Boys covered in their white paint or Immortan Joe’s prized “breeder” girls in their white flowing gowns and wraps. The only thing that seems a stark contrast is the fleeting moments we see the colour green, and we’re reminded that it is a sign of life and growth, something that is sorely missing in this post-apocalyptic world.
The literal driving force behind this film is the vehicles, a motley crew of modified suped-up motorbikes, cars, and trucks. They are truly the definition of “monster trucks”. The main star of the road crew is the War Rig, a mutant love-child of a semi-trailer and hot rod with bonus bulldozer bits. An 18-wheeled 6-wheel drive, twin V8 engine behemoth that ferries fluids and firearms from the Citadel to other outlying towns for barter. Then there’s Immortan Joe’s Gigahorse, with its double mounted Cadillac frames atop a pair of double rear wheels and powered by twin V8 engines it comes armed with a whaler’s harpoon and flamethrower. Then there’s the Doof Wagon, a repurposed 8×8 missile carrier that’s been decked out with air-con duct taiko drums at the back and wall of speaker stacks at the front, it sounds the call to war for all of the War Boys to take up arms. There’s no denying that these are ridiculously fascinating machines to watch as they race through the dust and dirt, all of which were purpose built for this film.
Yet we can’t forget our human stars, and Tom Hardy’s Max is a man of action with very little dialogue. I’m pretty sure Hardy’s script particularly for the first half of the film contained many “nods” and “grunts” and “side-eyes suspiciously” but if anybody can pull that stuff off, it’s Hardy. He was Bane after all, and if he can work with only one small part of his face being visible, this was a piece of cake. Then there’s Charlize Theron, who easily holds her own against Hardy and is only marginally more talkative. She is the purest definition of a strong independent woman (and an amputee no less!) who is determined to escape her life under the thumb of the Warlord and return to her childhood homeland. Surprisingly this film stars a number of women of different ages and ethnicity, all of whom take up arms and fight, Megan Gale makes a short but bad-ass appearance named The Valkyrie, if you’re familiar with the Norse legends you’ll have a good idea of what her character is like based on her name alone. Returning to the franchise is Hughs Keays-Byrne who played the villain Toecutter in the first Mad Max, this time he’s back as Immortan Joe. A larger than life disfigured villain that will stop at nothing to get back his “wives” yet who seems genuinely distraught should any harm come to them. Interestingly it’s War Boy Nux played by Nicholas Hoult who gets the best character development of the film and his arc highlights the underlying theme of redemption and the search for hope.
In a film with very little dialogue it speaks volumes about so many different themes. Capitalism and greed, religion and false gods, self-sacrifice, redemption, the after-life, patriarchal dominance, feminism, hope and ultimately survival. For fans of the Mad Max films there are nods and small homages to its origins, whether it’s briefly seeing the Interceptor back careering through the dirt, or the double-barreled shotgun in Max’s hands. Miller has not forgotten some of these smaller details that were iconic of the original trilogy. Yet in this film he brings a sequel to the first that is a worthy successor, which is also capable of standing on its own. You need not have seen any of the earlier films to enjoy this relentless visual spectacle with its intense carnage. Just buckle up and hang on because it’s a high octane ride from start to finish.
Review Score: FOUR AND A HALF STARS (OUT OF FIVE)
Running Time: 120 minutes
Mad Max Fury Road screens nationally in Australian cinemas from 14th May 2015 through Roadshow Films.