“Oh, what a lovely day!”
Since Mad Max: Fury Road has already been playing in cinemas for over three weeks, I’ll keep this write-up as vague and brisk as possible.
Everything you’ve heard is true. Mad Max: Fury Road is the best American action movie of this decade, and one of the most impressively shot dystopian science fiction thrillers ever made. It’s also, without doubt, the strangest and most absurd blockbuster to come out of the big studio system in Lord knows how long. These statements may ring a lot like hyperbole but I’m not exaggerating! Fury Road is a remarkable piece of movie-making. It’s a symphony of pulse-pounding action filmmaking; a relentless balls-to-the-wall, adrenaline-pumping action movie that grabs the audience by the gut and plays them like a fiddle for 120 minutes. It’s a macho action movie but it’s simultaneously a feminist action movie as well.
Fury Road is what happens when a studio gives a $150 million to a filmmaker and tells him to go nuts with it. The fact that this filmmaker isn’t some 20-something upstart looking to make his mark on the scene but George Miller, a 70-year-old veteran whose last three films were Babe: Pig in the City, Happy Feet and Happy Feet 2 is flabbergasting! Of course, Miller did create and direct all three previous films in the Mad Max franchise but considering that the last film in the series, the poorly received Beyond Thunderdome, opened 30 years ago, and the fact that Miller hadn’t made a live action movie in 23 years, it’s astonishing that Warner Brothers gave him complete control over the production.
To reveal the plot of the movie would be spoiling the fun. But let’s just say it involves a drifter named Max (a near-mute Tom Hardy) and a warrior named Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron in a tremendous performance) being pursued by a gang of mutant warlords and psychotics across a post-apocalyptic desert landscape. The reason why they’re being chased is something I won’t reveal. At its absolute essence, Fury Road is a two-hour-long chase sequence. This may sound exhausting but surprisingly, it’s not. Unlike many big budget action movies that assault viewers with relentless violence and chaos to the point where the audience turns into comatose zombies (ahem, Michael Bay), Fury Road is a consistently invigorating experience. This is because Miller and cinematographer John Seale shoot the action with a tactility that is severely lacking in action cinema nowadays. Using mostly practical effects and real cars for the action set-pieces greatly aids in giving the film a realism that CGI wouldn’t have been able to replicate.
One of the most remarkable aspects about Fury Road is the style in which Miller and Seale shoot it. By framing the action at the center of every shot, the audience is able to better comprehend what is going on at any given moment. Whether it’s an action sequence or a moment of dialogue, the subject is nearly always at the frame’s center. Editor Margaret Sixel’s breakneck pacing and cutting is another reason why the film works as well as it does. She knows exactly when to sustain the tension, when to release it and most impressive of all, when to turn on the breaks and feed us with a little character. Every pause in action is an excuse to further the dynamics between the ragtag set of characters we meet. We don’t get to know a lot about them but we certainly leave caring for them a great deal.
It’s a rare occasion with a movie completely blindsides you, leaving you in complete awe. And when I mean “awe,” I mean it in that comically disgusting mouth-agape way. Mad Max: Fury Road is one of those movies. It immerses you into its crazy world without an iota of spoon-feeding and tedious world-building, and then pulls you into a full throttle carnival of madness and high entertainment for two straight hours, leaving you exhilarated and in a daze. It’s a blitzkrieg!
Director: George Miller
Screenwriter: George Miller, Brendan McCarthy, Nick Lathouris
Cast: Charlize Theron, Tom Hardy, Nicholas Hoult, Hugh Keays-Byrne, Zoë Kravitz
Producer: George Miller, Doug Mitchell, P.J. Voeten
Running time: 120 minutes
Companies: Warner Brothers Pictures
Rating: R for intense sequences of violence throughout, and for disturbing images