Directed by George Miller
Starring Tom Hardy, Charlize Theron, Hugh Keays-Byrne
Mad Max is a strange world that subtly changes with every iteration it gets. In the first it was looking at a world of urban and social decay. By the second the Apocalypse had a occurred and people were encamped fighting for survival. The third is about building a civilisation from the ruins of the old world, while the fourth has full-on dynastic leanings, with its shaping of religion and bloodlines and the attempts of one family to control the wasteland. The one constant is the mighty roar of the V8s, and Fury Road brings it in force.
Max (Tom Hardy) is having a bad day in the post apocalyptic wilderness. Captured by a cult of “Warboys” and brought to their god-king Immortan Joe’s (Hugh Keays-Byrne) citadel to be used as a blood bag. When Joe’s formerly trusted Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron) absconds with a precious cargo and a “war-rig” (an armed truck that makes the one in Mad Max 2 look like a mini-van), then Max is hauled out of storage and strapped to car, to give his blood to the Warboys as they tear down Fury Road looking for vengeance. When Max escapes, though, all bets are off.
What eventuates is an almost two hour long car chase, with some of the most original iconography and stunt work to every cruise the wasted earth. Harpoons, flame throwers, cars festooned with metal spikes, it is an action-packed ballet of two, four, and 16 wheeled mayhem racing across the cursed wasteland. The character has come a long way since his 1979 debut and Miller celebrates this reboot by going all out in spectacular fashion. What is most amazing is that the majority of the stunts are physical, giving a real weight to the bone crunching impacts on screen beyond mere CG. When it has it pedal to the medal, Fury Road is jaw dropping in its audacity and beauty.
It is when it does slow down that the problems start to emerge. There is a sense of melodrama here that is positively theatrical. This is fine when competing against the high octane action, but appears to be overblown to an almost comical extent when it isn’t. Fortunately it is not something that breaks the film, as Miller keeps the pace frenetic.
Although almost lost in his own film, Hardy makes a good Max when he is eventually allowed to. Unfortunately he spends almost the first half of the film working to this point, being strapped to a vehicle with a mask bolted over his face. Once he does free himself however, we see a Max that is far twitchier and unstable than the previous iteration but still capable of ruling the roads. However, this is really Theron’s film. As Furiosa she is a force to behold, matching Max blow for blow.
An insane automotive spectacle on a scale never seen before, heralds the welcome return of the Road Warrior. A damn fine thrill ride, with just enough depth to make things interesting.