Review: Mad Max: Fury Road

There are few things more iconic in pop culture than Mad Max in the Interceptor barreling through a post apocalyptic wasteland. The images from 1979’s Mad Max, right out of a Cold War nightmare, have been replicated in cinema for the past 36 years. Even Tupac’s first video with Death Row Records, California Love, was inspired by Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome.

After three decades of pop culture influence and inspiration, director George Miller takes us back to the Australian dystopia with Mad Max: Fury Road.

The film opens with a brief narration from Max (Tom Hardy) who gives some insight into the type of world he’s surviving in. His narration is interrupted by a group of lunatics chasing him and the pursuit is on.

After the film’s first intense chase sequence, the central plot is introduced. A tyrant named King Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne) rules The Wasteland with his group of War Boys  and War Pups– a bald-headed band of psychopaths who look like skeletons dipped in baby powder. Joe controls the water in The Wasteland thus he controls life in The Wasteland. One of Joe’s most decorated warriors is Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron) who is trusted to drive a massive vehicle named The War Rig for supply runs. On her run, Furiosa detours and it’s discovered she’s taken Joe’s prize possessions, The Wives (Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, Riley Keough, Zoe Kravitz, Abbey Lee, and Courtney Eaton) and intends on freeing them from his tyrannical rule. Joe and the War Boys give chase to Furiosa to bring his wives back to The Wasteland.

With help from Max, Furiosa and The Wives navigate their way through the dangerous dessert in hopes of outrunning Joe and his band of misfits.

The plot to Fury Road is pretty elementary. Max and his crew must get from point A to point B before the bad guys catch them. It’s what happens in between those two points that makes Fury Road a jaw dropping cinematic experience. There isn’t much dialogue. No villainous monologues. No hero speeches. No romantic subplots. There are just enough exchanges between gear shifts and explosions to let you know what’s going on. The rest of the film is characters reacting and responding to the chaos around them.

Tom Hardy is excellent at saying a lot with his eyes (see: The Dark Knight Rises), so a role with minimal lines is right up his alley. What makes Hardy a master at his craft is on display in Fury Road. Max has very little to say but there isn’t a moment in the film where you don’t know what Max is feeling or thinking.

Charlize Theron is almost unrecognizable as Furiosa. Her total transformation and commitment to the character is what makes Furiousa a believable character. Furiousa is hardened character who’s as reasonable as she is ruthless.

As the trailers show, Fury Road is all car crashes, chases, and carnage. The use of practical effects is what makes it a must see. It reminded me of when I first saw The Raid. I was sat up in my seat the entire time thinking, “This is what fight sequences should look like.” Fury Road has the same effect. After the first 30 minutes you realize this is what car chases in movies should look like.

The chase through the dust-tornado-thunder cloud-storm and the scene in the canyon aren’t just a visual masterpiece, the stunt work is phenomenal. Those sequences are exactly what you want out of a movie called Fury Road. The score that blends perfectly with the white-knuckle pace of the film helps enhance these scenes even more.

One of the best things about the chase scenes is the insane design of the vehicles. The vehicles range from surprisingly practical to absurd. The scene stealer of the group is the War Boy shredding the guitar while chained to a wall speakers. He’s the post apocalyptic equivalent to the musicians that played music during the Civil War. Watching him lean forward, like he’s floating, while violently strumming his guitar that shoots fire is something I’ve never seen in the middle of an action sequence. The performance is incredibly wacky and insane. It’s also perfect for this movie.

It’s rare that I watch a movie and have a physical reaction to it. When we walked out the theater, trying to digest what we just saw, my fists were still slightly clinched like I just got off an intense rollercoaster ride. In a lot of ways, I did.

Grade: A