Mad Max: Fury Road
by Jordan Canahai
It’s only May and the summer of 2015 has already seen its masterpiece. Mad Max: Fury Road is a beautiful symphony of revving engines, burning nitro, screeching tires, crunching metal, explosions, bullets, and the occasional whirring chainsaw. The long in-gestation project finds writer/director George Miller returning to the universe he created and explored in the three previous Mad Max films, and one senses the 30 years worth of inspiration in every frame.
If Fury Road were only concerned with action, it would still be an awesome achievement, but Miller and co-writers Brendan McCarthy and Nico Lathouris also have more on their minds. A lot of their screenplay’s great success is that, while assembling the barest possible bones of a plot around what is essentially an extended two-hour chase scene, they also find room for welcome social commentary that is broad but earnest. The film’s opening finds Max (Tom Hardy, perfectly cast in the role that originally launched Mel Gibson’s career) just as mad as ever, haunted by the deaths of his loved ones who he couldn’t save, surveying the post apocalyptic wasteland of the future, a world laid to ruin from oil and water wars and nuclear destruction. In only a few moments of screen time Max is barreling down the desert in his famous black interceptor before being captured and imprisoned by the forces of aging warlord Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne), and the movie’s breakneck pace barely lets up from there.
Being held captive at the warlord’s citadel, we see how the grotesque Immortan Joe rules over the impoverished masses by tightly controlling the flow of water and spinning tales of Valhalla and reincarnation to his pale, bald war boys as they do his bidding. While Max is stuck during this early segment of Fury Road being confined as hood ornament on the car of one such war boy—Nux (Nicholas Hoult)—the film focuses on its other protagonist, Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron), the one-armed driver of a massive War Rig—a weaponized semi—trusted with delivering fuel from the nearby Gas Town back to the Citadel. She’s taken it upon herself make an unexpected detour in an attempt to deliver five beautiful women whom Immortan Joe has forced into being his wives and deliver them to the safety of “The Green Zone” an earthly haven Furiosa was taken from as a child.
Women have always had it hard in the Mad Max movies, the threat of violence and exploitation always hanging over them, but never more so than in Fury Road. Rather than confine this aspect to the sidelines, Miller and his co-writers instead allow the feminist themes to take center stage—refreshing during a summer movie season that saw Black Widow reduced to playing damsel in distress throughout a good deal of Avengers: Age of Ultron. Furoisa’s journey to escape Immortan Joe is more importantly a search for a world free from the cruelty and tyranny of men (The question “Who killed the world?” is raised multiple times throughout the film and it’s no accident a woman is always the one asking it.) Yet for however tough constant abuse have made the women of Fury Road, they’re just as capable of compassion as anger. A subplot which finds the fanatic war boy Nux swayed to help the women’s cause by the gentle kindness shown to him by one of Joe’s wives is handled beautifully.
Speaking of beauty, Mad Max: Fury Road must surely rank as one of the most visually arresting action pictures ever made. This is the dystopian epic Sergio Leone might have directed. Aided by cinematographer John Seal, Miller paints one indelible image after another on his canvas while stringing together a series of perfectly constructed action sequences that masterfully incorporate both practical effects and stunt work with the latest digital technologies. Fury Road raises the stakes for the action genre just as surely as The Road Warrior did more than three decades ago. This is pop-art at its best.
Watch the trailer for Mad Max: Fury Road
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