Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)
Directed by: George Miller
Running time: 120 minutes
I almost completely wrote off Mad Max: Fury Road when I initially heard about it. I had added it to the long list of films coming out that are either sequels, reboots or sequel-reboots (requels? seboots?) of 80s and 90s franchises and, given it was based upon a franchise I had very little experience with, I wasn’t terribly excited. I only saw bits of the original films as a child, and Fury Road looked like a lot of crazy car chase action scenes with a heavy focus on the cars rather than the actual action, and that kind of vibe is what has put me off seeing films like the Fast & Furious. I don’t know, but I’ve never been much of a rev-head so that whole “driving cars fast = excitement” mentality has never really appealed to me.
But I will eat my proverbial hat. You have never seen car chases like the ones in Mad Max: Fury Road, and it is one of the better action films I have seen in recent years.
Now Showing this week is Mad Max: Fury Road, directed by George Miller. Following a nuclear war, the world is left barren and desolate, with what is left of mankind struggling for oil and water. A nomad named Max (Tom Hardy), haunted by visions of his deceased daughter, is captured by the army of a tyrannical dictator named Immorten Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne) and used as a universal blood donor for his soldiers. But Max’s confinement is short lived, for the army is soon called to arms in order to pursue Immorten Joe’s chief lieutenant, Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron), who has secretly liberated his prize breeding women. Caught in the middle of the pursuit, Max must decide whether he can abandon the liberated women to Immorten’s mercy or help them find freedom in the wasteland the world has become.
A vocal minority has been stirring up discussion as to if Fury Road should be considered “feminist propaganda”, and I want to quickly address that discussion right here. I would disagree with that notion, because the term “propaganda” implies the film is a tool to further an agenda and omits information to influence people’s minds. This film is nothing of the sort, but what it is is a good film with a strong cast of characters, regardless of their gender, which is really what all good storytelling strives to be.
The female characters are not weak or stereotyped as they are in a majority of action films. They are a product of the environment the film is set in. The only agenda they can possibly be serving is that sex slavery at the hands of a corrupt, greedy dictator is bad and that women are not property for anyone to own. And that isn’t even an agenda, that is just fact. If you disagree with a film expressing that view, then I can’t help you.
Anyway, enough of that, let’s talk about the actual film.
The first thing that struck me about Fury Road is how incredibly unique it looks. The madness stated in the title extends far beyond Max himself but into the architecture and design of the world around him. The film’s many vehicles are made from trucks and muscle cars, decked out with spikes, giant snatch poles and one featuring tons of amplifiers and a lunatic playing a fire spitting electric guitar. Immorten Joe’s army of War Boys look like albino ravers; Immorten himself like a death-metal inspired Darth Vader. Director George Miller’s psychotic vision of this apocalyptic future is amazing to behold and really must be seen to be believed.
I say that because a majority of the film’s crazy vehicles and action sequences involving them were done live on set. Don’t believe me? See for yourself. I didn’t believe it at first either, and that is a testament to how balls-out bonkers Fury Road‘s action sequences are: so bonkers that I couldn’t fathom that it was possible without CGI.
It’s one thing for an action movie to have ridiculously awesome action scenes, but the truly brilliant ones have a great narrative and characters to back it up. Fury Road‘s story is simple but effective, choosing not to over complicate itself with a history of the wasteland and just having the simple goal of getting the former brides to safety. None of the characters are terribly developed in the conventional sense, moreover they have clear motivations that are expressed in more nuanced ways. Max himself has very little dialogue, making him almost a side character in favour of Imperator Furiosa and her mission. I wouldn’t expect Fury Road to go down in history as having the deepest characters in an action movie, but it certainly clears the bar that a majority of action films seem indifferent to want to reach.
For the most part, the acting is top notch, particularly from Theron’s Furiosa, Nicholas Hoult’s Nux and the more conflicted brides. My only huge issue was that I felt Tom Hardy as Max seemed a little off sometimes, particularly when he spoke. His accent was amazing for the intense narration in the opening, but in normal dialogue it just sounded funny sometimes. Coupled with his uncomfortable-wide-eyes expression, he just came across as a bit silly which doesn’t quite suit the “road warrior” persona.
Mad Max: Fury Road is the kind of action movie you won’t have seen for a long time. Though it is far from perfect, the sheer scale and spectacle of the action coupled with a strong narrative and cast of characters make it one of the better action films to have been released in recent years. And it is another great example of a film that you must see on the big screen, because seeing those cars flip and hearing their engines roar just won’t be the same in your living room, no matter how much you’ve spent on a home theatre system. Definitely check it out.
See you next time!