Director: George Miller
Cast: Tom Hardy, Charlize Theron, Nicholas Hoult, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley and Riley Keough
Running Time: 120 minutes
Release Date: May 15th
It doesn’t feel like a coincidence that George Miller has nuked any and all notions of the modern blockbuster with his return to the post-apocalypse. In an age where CGI, stunt-casting, universe building, product placement and crossover potential all rule supreme, Miller has put practical effects and giddy simplicity in the driver’s seat, while diversions such as dialogue, character arcs and overcomplicated plotting can barely be seen in the rear-view mirror. In some ways it’s admirably bonkers that Warner Brothers ponied up the $150 million needed for Fury Road to become a reality, as this is very much Terminator 2 directed by Terry Gilliam. This is a summer tent-pole release as viewed through the kaleidoscope lens of a singular genius, a mega-budget event movie incomparable to anything else within its price range.
What’s peculiar about Fury Road is how caught up it could have been in having to spell out its world to us, but instead just zips by it, allowing the audience to fill in the blanks. In the opening scene, Max (Tom Hardy) is captured and turned into a mobile blood-bank for Nux (Nicholas Hoult), a warrior ant slowly dying of what we presume to be radioactive poisoning, but one who is happy to give his life for his cult-ish leader Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne, who also played the main villain in the original Mad Max). When his loyal commander Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron) makes a run for it in the War Rig – essentially a massive oil tanker ready for battle – with his collection of breeders (including Rosie Huntington-Whitley, Zoe Kravitz and Elvis’ granddaughter Riley Keough), Joe pursues them into the treacherous desert, as does Nux and several dozen others to impress their leader, with Max caught somewhere in the middle.
Or to put it even simpler; the good guys run away, and the bad guys chase after them. Non-stop. For two hours. Make no mistake about it, this is a chase movie simultaneously stripped back to basics and ramped up to 110%. The glorious stunt-work and relentless action sequences pump the movie with a kinetic energy boosted by its insidious unpredictability. Even with big names like Hardy and Theron and Hoult, there is a gut-twisting feeling throughout that any one of them could be killed off at any moment. Shot through with a retina-popping, colour-bursting Instagram filter, Miller’s dead-world war-zone is an adrenaline shot right into the brain through the eyeball, the action sequences often too huge and yet too detailed to take in all at once. When the movie stops for a few seconds to breathe and take stock, you can physically feel your body unclench and your mind still processing the “How did they DO that?” moments of frantic yet balletic action insanity.
Hardy’s Max is less the gruff loner of Gibson’s take and more, well, actually mad, haunted and tormented by visions of a mysterious young girl he failed to save. Oftentimes it feels like Max is the supporting character in Furiosa’s movie, as most of the dialogue and plot development is given over to Theron’s bald, one-armed warrior, but she’s more than up to the challenge. In fact, even with all the carmaggedon madness, one of the movie’s highlights is a deftly choreographed scrap between Hardy and Theron, her blind rage and physical ingenuity in the fight colouring in some of her backstory that the script remains silent about elsewhere.
Some might scoff at the “all action, all the time” nature of the film, complain about the lack of depth or motivations, or even minimal explanations – the universe Miller has created (or expanded upon, depending on your entry point to the franchise) is a Hills Have Eyes nightmare taken to the Nth degree, one you either accept and don’t question or go mad trying to figure out – and these are all valid points. But when presented with one of the best action movies in the entire history of the genre, you tend to forgive these minor speed-bumps. Once the dust settles, Mad Max: Fury Road will likely be the best blockbuster you’ll see this year.