“My name is Max. My world is fire. And blood.”
A lot has changed since George Miller’s first Mad Max film back in 1979. Firstly, Mel Gibson is no longer the star in the latest film in the ozploitation franchise that kick started his career. Instead he’s been replaced by Tom Hardy who does the whole tough and silent wanderer thing almost as well as Gibson. Secondly, the world of action films has changed considerably since the late 70’s/early 80’s; with only a rare few still favouring practical effects. Nowadays it’s almost a given that a films action and stunts are to be done with tons of CGI and fake sets. Not Mad Max: Fury Road though, oh no George Miller instead goes down the 80’s route and smashes real cars, creating real explosions and probably breaking a few bones in the process. And it’s awesome.
The plot of Fury Road could be written in a few words; bad guys chase good guys. That’s pretty much it. After Max (and his interceptor) are captured by villain Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne, formally Mad Max villain Toe Cutter) he teams up with escaping Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron) as she tries to smuggle out Joe’s ‘breeders’ and escape across the wasteland back to the green place where Furiosa was born. But Joe and his suicidal War Boy’s are in hot pursuit, effectively turning the whole film in to one long awesome chase. Like the past Mad Max films, Miller really doesn’t skimp on the practical effects and the results are brilliant. Most of the time is spent in Furiosa’s War Rig, a giant armoured tanker truck, with Joe’s forces attacking from all angles. These scenes resemble the third act of The Road Warrior but amped up by 1000%. Even the vehicles have become even more ridiculous, with some of the best being the People Eater’s Mercedes limousine truck thing and the Doof Warrior’s Doof Wagon, which is basically a stage on wheels for the Doof Warrior to play thrash metal on his flame-thrower/guitar thing. It’s as ridiculous and as amazing as it sounds, and the film never really loses it’s wild pace. Plus, most of the things you see in the film were achieved with practical effects. This really helps the film, giving it a brutal realistic edge missing from a lot of action films. Real cars crumple and explode and a lot of the time we can see it’s actually Tom Hardy and Charlize Theron doing the stunts, which also helps a bunch as it adds that visceral touch that keeps you on the edge of your seat. Miller films all of it in a clear concise way, and you can follow it all with ease, none of that over the top, ADHD-style shaky cam here. He throws the action at the audience thick and fast but manages to keep each set piece feeling diverse, from the beautiful multi-coloured sandstorm to the blue tint of the night-time quagmire, which are all a glorious feast for the eyes and a toll on the adrenaline. Sure, there are quiet bits to forward the plot but they are well written, often being funny and usually giving us an insight into the world of Mad Max.
Within all the carnage the actors also do a great job. Acting in a Mad Max film isn’t Shakespeare but it brings its own set of challenges. Apparently filming was pretty torturous but it probably helped as the actors do a great job conveying the sense of loss and world weariness that you would expect in a post apocalyptic landscape. Hardy does a good job as Max, perhaps not quite beating Mel Gibson, but he puts his own spin on things simultaneously becoming both a tougher and more vulnerable Max. Theron is especially great as Furiosa and she really manges to get the badass role down and is a refreshing take on your typical action movie female character. And between her and Hardy they quickly become one of the best action duos of cinema history. Also awesome is Keays-Byrne as Immortan Joe, perhaps even surpassing his own character Toecutter as the best Mad Max villain. The film’s soundtrack is as outstanding and diverse as it’s actors and action, ranging from drums to kick ass guitar to an emotional orchestral score.
The Bottom Line: Without hyperbole, Mad Max: Fury Road is the best action film of the decade and probably the best of this century. The action, performances, and the soundtrack are all pitch perfect. It’s weird to think back in 2012/2013 we were worried about the state of this film because when you see the finished product you’ll wonder how an action film could be more perfect. You owe it to yourself and the R rated movie industry to see it as many times as you can.