Review: Mad Max: Fury Road
PLOT: Max Rockatansky (Tom Hardy) is taken prisoner by the followers of a tyrannical warlord, Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne). To escape, he's forced to make a pact with Joe's top lieutenant, the mysterious Furiosa (Charlize Theron) who's on a quest for redemption which involves rescuing Joe's enslaved brides.
REVIEW: It's rare for me – as a guy who's privileged enough to write about films regularly – to find myself at a loss for words after seeing a movie. Love it or hate it, I can usually jot down five hundred words and be done with it as soon as I can get to a laptop, but MAD MAX: FURY ROAD threw me for a loop. I knew I was going to like it. Heck, I knew I'd probably love it, but I truly did not expect to find myself so shook-up and maybe it's because I feel like I've just witnessed the birth of a full-on action classic. I feel like I did when I walked out of THE MATRIX in '99, or the way people probably did when they saw DIE HARD in theaters in 1988, or (appropriately) THE ROAD WARRIOR in 1982. Make no mistake, FURY ROAD is on par with those films and the closest to a modern action classic then I've seen in some time.
Sure, there have been other great blockbusters over the years. INCEPTION, THE DARK KNIGHT, etc, but those weren't really action movies. FURY ROAD is a f**kin' action movie through and through. Big, brash and unapologetic with a hard-earned R-rating, FURY ROAD is a throwback to an era where action movies were made by veteran directors who knew what they were doing, and not some hot flavor-of-the-month making a leap-to-tentpoles before they were really ready.
Clearly, George Miller has spent years – probably even decades – tinkering with his concept of MAD MAX: FURY ROAD and the result is a film that you can tell Miller put his whole heart and soul into. There's no saving anything for the sequel here. Miller's made the absolute best movie he can. More than anything it feels like the MAD MAX movie Miller's always wanted to make but just didn't have the technology or resources to do back then – and that's not a dig at the incredible original trilogy. This just feels extra special and like the movie a kid making movies in the Australian outback with his mates dreamed of doing but didn't have anywhere near the resources he needed (even though he did pretty damn amazing without them).
Everything about FURY ROAD is perfect, to the extent that writing a review feels almost unnecessary as you should just go see it as there's nothing I can write that does it justice. While it would have been a treat to see Mel Gibson come back, Tom Hardy is more than able to slip into Max's one-armed leather jacket. While clearly canon, Hardy wisely avoids ape'ing Gibson, doing his own thing instead. Appropriately, he plays Max as absolutely “mad” as in full-on insane. The character history is the same, but here he's the guy who we saw eating dog food at the beginning of THE ROAD WARRIOR, a former hero who's had everything he cared about taken away and is now an animal. As such, Hardy plays him as vicious, more likely to growl than speak – almost feral in a way. Yet, he also conveys the repressed nobility and heroism of the guy, making him a hero you can root for. Importantly, he's also incredibly dynamic in the action sequences, which are absolutely nonstop.
For her part, Charlize Theron is equal to Hardy, with Furiosa just as much the hero as he is – possibly even more so as she's got the real arc. Max is the enigma, Furiosa is the heart. Here, Theron and Miller have crafted one of the most memorable action heroines since Ripley, and if there's a dearth of female action heroes out there, Furiosa is a new one and immediately one for the ages. Theron has done action before, but she's never had a character like Furiosa, and it's the kind of performance that's going to turn her into a legend.
While Hardy and Theron can't help but dominate, the supporting cast is excellent. Nicholas Hoult steals scenes as the future fan-favorite Nux, making his henchman into a character with real compassion and humanity. Hugh Keays-Byrne (who played Toecutter in the first film) is formidable and freakish as the terrifying Immortan Joe, while the “wives” played by Rosie Huntington-Whitely, Zoe Kravitz, Abbey Lee and Courtney Eaton are all fully rounded characters and not merely damsels in distress.
On the technical side, FURY ROAD is a marvel. The photography and editing are Oscar-level, while the hard-driving score by Junkie XL is off-the-charts great, with it being worked into the film in a diegetic way I won't spoil here. Tying it all together – of course – is George Miller who, at seventy, has just kicked all modern action auteurs asses, with action scenes that feel un-toppable. The film is literally almost non-stop action, but all of the beats are so distinct they never feel like one big set-piece. The final battle royale is a masterpiece of virtuoso action film-making and worthy of applause at any screening you attend.
MAD MAX: FURY ROAD is so great, and hopefully it'll be recognized as such by fans and critics alike. It's a shame tentpole fare is often overlooked at the awards-level, but for what it is FURY ROAD is absolutely flawless and I'm not exaggerating when I say Miller's made a true instant classic. Go see it and then go see it again. I know I will.
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