Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)

 

Directed by George Miller

Contains spoilers.

This fourth installment in the Mad Max franchise stars Tom Hardy as the titular 'Mad' Max Rockatansky alongside Charlize Theron as Imperator Furiosa, Nicholas Hoult as the war boy Nux, and Hugh Keays-Byrne, not reprising his previous role as Toecutter, but as the new villain: Immortan Joe.

Fury Road kicks off with a voiceover by Max that leads to a quick car chase and ultimately being captured by unknown assailants. Whether bandits or slavers (or both) they reveal that they intend to use him as a blood donor.

Max briefly makes an escape attempt, one that nearly works, but it mostly serves to show us the predicament he's in: trapped in a large tunnel network nestled along the cliffs of a cluster of canyon/rock formations, forming the elevated fortress home to the extensive gang that's captured him. At the same time that he's caught, his captors, the War Boy 'army' led by dictator-like (aka cult leader) Immortan Joe, are preparing a convoy to go trade at the nearby Gastown.

After a show of his self-appointed godliness, during which he releases hundreds of gallons of water for the huddled masses below his fortress, Joe sends the convoy on its way, putting his officer, Imperator Furiosa, in charge of it. As the convoy leaves, Max is being hooked up as an unwilling blood donor to a sick warrior named Nux.

On the way to Gastown, Furiosa turns the convoy off the road. Joe sees it through a telescope and we start to see what's happening through his erupting reaction: Furiosa's helping Joe's five, favorite wives/breeders (aka sex slaves) escape to "the green place."

Joe mobilizes his War Boys, and Nux is eager to join the chase. With some help, Max is strapped to the hood of Nux's pursuit vehicle, still dripping blood to Nux as they drive but obviously soon breaking free. 

What follows is a hectic, manic, deadly, thrilling chase through desert, storm, hills, swamp, and then back.

...with Fury Road, Miller has effectively set the standard for modern action movies...

 

As the chase progresses, we see the action ramp up with intense car fighting and glorious deaths. The stunt work and driver coordination is incredible, and more impressive when you realize that the large majority of the chase scenes feature practical effects, with perfect camera shots and just the right amount of slow-mo dotted through the fighting. It becomes increasingly clear as the movie plays out that, with Fury Road, Miller has effectively set the standard for modern action movies, truly living up to the cinematic and action-packed legacy of the Mad Max films and evolving his classic style of story and action into the modern theater.

The story itself is simplistic with easy to understand motivations. The actors convey their complicated emotions perfectly with the situations that present themselves, and the movie unfolds as an action packed drama or a dramatic, action adventure populated not only by simultaneously tough and empathetic characters, but also by deep, majestic crescendos and booming silence in the calm between storms and the oddly interesting environment of post-apocalyptic Australia.

With each successive film, Miller has built upon the world he created over 30 years ago, making it ever more frantic, filled with more chaos and a significant lack of order always in the back of the mind. The only thing filling his cinematic landscape more than the emptiness is, strangely enough, beautiful action. The desperate tussle for survival, strangely, is less noticeable in this chapter of Max's story; the influence of Joe's cult teachings is palpable amid the eager sacrifices of his War Boys, with multiple suicidal attempts at stopping Max and Furiosa. That being said, the chaotic nature of vehicle-centered fighting is still present, making the fight scenes all the more impressive, standing apart even from such massive blockbusters as Avengers: Age of Ultron, the like of which tend to highlight the almost perfect precision of their fights, like a synchronized dance. Although impressive, sometimes you just need a touch of chaos and unpredictability to make the scenes more realistic. And everything about this movie paints itself as utterly possible, from a strong-willed leader taking control of a water-pumping station and surrounding himself with devotees to one of his War Boys betraying the flock after being humiliated by his apocalyptic God.

So many movies, despite having good action, make too many mistakes. The scratches are too perfect, the fights lending too cleanly to unrealistic "finishers," and love popping up through just a single, actual conversation or a few jokes. Mad Max has none of that; it's dirt, and grit. There are no picture-perfect injuries without consequences, only realistic bone breaks that linger through multiple movies; there are no kung-fu fights with cinematic back and forth, only tooth and nail survival; there is no puny romance, only respect.

In fact, this is as close to a perfect movie as I've ever seen. Any complaints I have are few and far between, and they range in actual significance from nil to a little bit... From a perfectly shaped line of sand that Furiosa's war rig could use as fire extinguisher by lowering the plow to a group called the Bullet Barn that Mad Max could steal a multitude of weapons from. Exactly how much such complaints actually affect the story is debatable: they could still manage realism. For instance, the existence of a group of weapon hoarders is entirely believable.

 

I can say without hesitation that this is the best action movie I've seen all year and has the characters that I've cared the most about. For a movie with such a simple premise but so much action, I think that should tell you a lot about how well Miller has directed this dystopian opera.

Every cast member plays their part perfectly: Hardy does a bang-up job picking up the reigns, or keys, from Mel Gibson, and Theron beautifully portrays the strength and woe of mysterious Furiosa, in fact she could without a doubt man the helm of her own epic. Hoult brings the downtrodden martyr back to life and Keays-Byrne is a beautifully gruesome villain.

  • Acting – 19 / 20
  • Story – 17 / 20
  • Cinematography – 18 / 20
  • Soundtrack – 9 / 10
  • Entertainment Factor – 10 / 10
  • Action – 10 / 10
  • Other – 10 / 10

I don't like to claim brand new movies as favorites, I think that tends to discount a century of filmmaking wherein hundreds of amazing movies have been made, but this is one for the ages. The scale of just how impressively put together this movie is has been present in my mind since before the credits started to roll.

My obvious adoration boils down to this TL:DR... The action is fantastic; it is thrilling, tense, and frantic. The story is straightforward and understandable, with enough humanity and emotion to make me care about the characters. The soundtrack enveloped me, and altogether the movie is very entertaining.

I highly recommend Mad Max: Fury Road.

Grade A = 93 / 100