VOD film review: Mad Max: Fury Road
James R | On 06, Oct 2015
Director: George Miller
Cast: Tom Hardy, Charlize Theron
“It was hard to know who’s more crazy; me, or everyone else.”
So says Tom Hardy’s Max at the start of Mad Max: Fury Road, before munching on a lizard. You’ll be thinking the same thing after 30 minutes of George Miller’s two-hour insane blockbuster – the kind of movie that you’re never sure you haven’t hallucinated completely.
It’s certainly a theory that director George Miller relentlessly puts to the test, filling his screen with cars, carnage and grotesque characters – none of whom ever question the grammar of that opening sentence. You soon realise why: there’s no time to think about comparative adjectives. In fact, there’s no time to think about anything, as the opening shot drives straight into a car chase that sees things blow up, flip over, crash into other things and blow up again.
What little exposition we need is glimpsed in the rear view mirror as we fly past: the post-apocalyptic wasteland of Earth has turned everyone bananas, with crowds of thirsty souls mindlessly following Immortan Joe (Hugh “Toecutter” Keays-Byrne), a leader who promises water, fuel and the chance of going to Valhalla should they die trying to protect either. While they crawl about on the dusty ground, he stands above them in a skull-carved mountain, with a horde of wives for breeding.
Unsurprisingly, these women have had enough. And so they escape, led by Imperator Furiosa (Theron). Their flight to freedom collides with that of Max, a shared purpose that sees the captured outsiders unite in a big, armoured truck.
Miller throws people together like he does his vehicles: with a visible love of things that go crunch. Machine and man meet head-on over and over in increasingly creative combinations, a spectacle that is overlaid in a never-ending blend of cyan and tangerine.
The post-production colouring offers a pretty wrapper for what is alarmingly practical chaos, mixing the otherworldly sights with a tangible gore. To say the set pieces are dazzling in their ingenious brutality is an understatement: the entire film is virtually one big set piece, with small chunks of dialogue chucked in between the well-oiled cogs. It’s like watching Speed on fast-forward.
Miller’s streamlined approach applies to his character development too, letting his star’s actions reveal more about them than any clunky speeches. Tom Hardy swaggers through it with a casual intensity, but the craziest thing is that Max isn’t the main character at all: that honour falls to Charlize Theron’s Furiosa. For all the references to the franchise’s past (and there are many) this could easily be an original film without any mention of Max – a fact that highlights just how idionsyncratic Miller’s vision is. In a world of male-oriented, sequel-driven cinema, Fury Road presents the story of a woman fighting her way out of a guy’s clutches with bad-ass efficiency. She’s nobody’s property and she knows it. And she has a bionic arm. How did she get it? Who cares? It’s what she does with it that matters.
The same is true of Joe’s younger wives, who may be scantily clad but become increasingly active agents in their dash for freedom, and Nicholas Hoult’s likeably dim Nux, a loser who accidentally falls in with our rebels. Together, they drive one way down a very long road. Then, they drive in the opposite direction. The almost gracefully simple structure hurtles along at a pace that makes Paul Greengrass look like Terrence Malick, while Miller packs the backseat with all kinds of intriguing, world-building details, from religious cults and incest to humanoid crows and pole-vaulting warriors.
By the end of the adrenaline rush, it’s hard to know who’s more crazy: Miller, who also directed Baby: Pig in the City, or the people who allowed him near a movie camera in the first place. (One thing’s for certain: the rules of language have never seemed more irrelevant.) A feminist action flick with a hero who just happens to have a disability, Max Max: Fury Road is insanely entertaining.