After watching Mad Max (1979), The Road Warrior (1981), and Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome (1985), I wondered what a Mad Max movie made today, with a significantly bigger budget and state-of-the-art special effects, would be like. Well, with Mad Max: Fury Road, that question has been answered.
Mad Max: Fury Road is a full-on assault on one’s senses, in the absolutely best possible way. It’s a cinematic roller-coaster ride of the highest degree. The movie should definitely be experienced on the biggest screen one can reasonably find and with the volume level set to just below eardrum-burstingly loud.
The action sequences are as gloriously exciting as current filmmaking techniques allow them to be, with extensive use of practical effects, which are carefully and seamlessly combined with visual effects where required. The film contains some of the most exhilarating and impressive vehicle chases—in fact, the narrative consists of little else—I’ve ever seen. A terrific sandstorm sequence is but one of several crazy, deliriously awesome moments in the movie. At one point during the first major action sequence, I had to make a conscious effort to swallow my saliva lest I start drooling; that’s how enthralled I was by the proceedings. And at the other end of the spectrum is a meaningful nod between two characters in the final scene; it’s a lovely moment.
Need another reason to celebrate Mad Max: Fury Road? The film is decidedly feminist without pushing an agenda. Its feminism turns out to be a natural, organic component of the story. On more than one occasion, two or more women talk to one another about something besides a man, meaning that the movie passes the Bechdel test. How about that: a pedal-to-the-metal action film that actually passes the Bechdel test!
Adhering to the “show, don’t tell” principle, co-writer (with Brendan McCarthy and Nick Lathouris)/director George Miller continues to expand his post-apocalyptic world. John Seale’s top-notch cinematography results in stunningly beautiful visuals. The production design by Colin Gibson is fabulous, as are Jenny Beavan’s costumes. Margaret Sixel’s ferociously effective editing keeps the narrative moving at a very fast pace while at the same time ensuring that the viewer can always make sense of what is going on in the mayhem. The propulsive music score by Tom Holkenborg (also known as Junkie XL) infuses Mad Max: Fury Road with plenty of energy.
Tom Hardy is a worthy heir to the role of Max Rockatansky, taking over from Mel Gibson. The new Max comes across as somewhat less civilized than the Max from the original trilogy, probably as a result of his having spent a long time in the desert wasteland before the events in this film take place, and I like it. Charlize Theron is simply superb as Imperator Furiosa, achieving with a remarkably forceful performance a delicate balance between fighting spirit—and ability!—and resourcefulness on the one hand and emotional vulnerability on the other. As Nux, Nicholas Hoult impresses in a role that has the most interesting character arc in the movie. Hugh Keays-Byrne (Toecutter in the first Mad Max film) plays the villain in the story, Immortan Joe, and he does it splendidly.
Could Mad Max: Fury Road be the start of a new series of Mad Max films? If future installments are as good as this movie, I sure hope so!