Title: Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)
Director: George Miller
Runtime: 120 minutes
It’s been thirty years since Max has graced the cinema, so I was decidedly nervous that director George Miller was bringing the anti-hero back to the screen. I shouldn’t have been worried, though, that the seventy-year-old director was returning to the high-speed action genre he helped revolutionize with the Mad Max films, because the teacher is in, and he still has lessons to drive into other action director’s heads out there. Mad Max: Fury Road is a phenomenal action film that manages to hang on to the little shred of humanity that is left in the insanity that is the world of Mad Max, while delivering some of the most amazing stunts I’ve seen in an action film without relying on CGI to sell the effect. I don’t know if it’s that we’ve seen effects work creep into every little thing, but seeing so much of this not fall back on CGI is refreshing.
The plot, thin as it is, is based around a chase film motif like most of the Mad Max films end up devolving into, only this one is taking place throughout most of the film. It seems a madman named Immortan Joe has taken advantage of the fact that he controls the water supply for hundreds of people, and has built up quite the cult following along with a harem of wives, who his fiercest warrior, Imperator Furiosa, has decided to abscond with in his War Rig as she makes her way across the desert to where she remembers home is.
Max, captured early on, ends up as a blood bag for one of Joe’s troops, who happens to be dying. Max is chosen to be the lucky universal donor that keeps feeding him blood as Joe’s troops tear off after Furiosa. Accidents happen, as is often the case in high speed chases, and Max ends up running with Furiosa while Joe and his band of misfits tries to hunt them down all while Max and Furiosa try to head east to the green land of her youth.
While the film is set in Max’s world, and Max happens to be a part of all this as it hits the fan, this is very much Furiosa’s story, and everyone else is along for the ride. Picking Charlize Theron for Furiosa is great casting. She brings this great weight to the role, and you really feel a lot of what she and the others are going through thanks to her skills on camera. Tom Hardy is a pretty good substitute for Mel Gibson as Max, but he’s not given a whole lot to do. Nicholas Hoult as Nux, though, has an interesting arc, and like Charlize and the girls she’s rescued, has a good story and character arc through all of the vehicular mayhem.
Speaking of vehicular mayhem, George Miller just reminded all of those action directors out there that you can, in fact, go with mostly practical effects. You don’t need a damned handicam, and you can go with a longer cut than two or three seconds. You can also have some composition to the scene your filming, have it look amazing, and it can still be an action film. Could we finally be getting away from that “Bayhem” style of shooting? I mean, I like Michael Bay, but when everyone is copying him, it gets old. The shots in Mad Max: Fury Road look meticulously set up. You know exactly what action is happening on-screen in every shot. You can easily follow what’s going on, and yet it looks like one giant ball of chaos that leaves my jaw hanging open, and I’m leaning forward in my seat to see what happens next.
Mad Max: Fury Road may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but George Miller has raised the bar when it comes to action films, and that a more practical approach to a stunt can often be the most believable thing you can put in a film. This is one of those films that just grabs you and tells you to hold on, and while I was optimistic coming into this film, I feel like one of those frothing warriors of the wasteland, having to go and tell everyone how damned good Mad Max: Fury Road really is. What a lovely day.