Running Time: 116 minutes
Directed by: George Miller
Starring: Tom Hardy, Charlize Theron, Nicholas Hoult, Hugh Keays-Byrne, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, Zoë Kravitz, Riley Keough, Abbey Lee
I have seen the new Mad Max film and it truly is mad. Undoubtedly, this pun will be made by countless other internet reviewers as well but hell, I’m not proud. Director George Miller has returned to the series after thirty years and he did it triumphantly.
In a brutal post-apocalyptic world, warlord Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne) rules over the freaks and monsters in his desert Citadel. But then Furiosa (Charlize Theron), his most trusted driver, escapes in one of the war rigs. With her she takes Joe’s most prized possessions – his wives. Max Rockatansky (Tom Hardy) gets caught in this by sheer accident and does whatever it takes to survive.
From start to finish, Mad Max: Fury Road goes far beyond your average action flick. It is one giant car chase, stripping its plot and characters to the bones and keeping relentless pace throughout with just enough stops to make it all bearable. Its nightmarish visuals tell us more about the film’s world then any amount of Hollywood exposition could and characters are portrayed almost entirely through their actions. Their motivations are simple but visceral, making the stakes of this huge chase seem real in a way that stories about saving the entire world never can. Hardy is surprisingly understated in his role. He’s a stand-in for the audience, observing and reacting to the desert storm of grotesque images around him.
There are monstrous vehicles and equally monstrous men driving them. “Men” is a key word here. At first, the Kamicrazys and War Dogs of the Citadel seem in equal measure impressive and insane. But they’re so over-the-top that they turn into a parody, their posturing meaning little in a lifeless wasteland surrounding them. Powerful old men lead them to battle with the promise of eternal glory. It’s the women, running away from being treated like cattle, who ask the obvious question “Who killed the world?” with the answer being, of course, that same culture obsessed with power and death. This may not be much of a subtext – hell, it’s not even a “sub” as the question gets literally written out in the film – but it is nevertheless a subversion of the action film tropes we have grown accustomed to.
This message combined with the film’s stylistic choices and its sheer craftsmanship – many of its special effects are practical, not CGI – makes Mad Max: Fury Road smart and exciting entertainment. Miller knew what kind of a film he wanted to make and he did it. It isn’t a film made for everyone. In an era of blockbusters trying to please everybody, that just may be the highest praise I can write about it.