Reviewed by GREG KING
Director: George Miller
Stars: Tom Hardy, Charlize Theron, Nicholas Hoult, Hugh Keays-Byrne, John Howard, Josh Helman, Zoe Kravitz, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, Richard Carter, Angus Sampson, Megan Gale, Melissa Jaffer, Gillian Jones, Joy Smithers, Quentin Kenihan, Richard Norton.
It’s been thirty years since we last heard from “Mad Max” Rockatansky, in the average Beyond Thunderdome, the final film in George Miller’s post-apocalyptic trilogy. That film was more memorable for Tina Turner’s anthemic theme song rather than anything else. The second film in the trilogy Road Warrior was a pure adrenaline charged action movie with nonstop excitement from go to whoa, and was easily the best in the series. The new Mad Max movie comes pretty damn close to matching it for both intensity and action. This post apocalyptic action movie is also a full-on adrenaline charged action movie that reinvents the Mad Max mythology for a whole new generation.
This is Miller’s first live action movie since Babe: Pig In The City fifteen year earlier, and he has spent over a decade trying to bring his vision to the screen.
When we meet Max (now played by Tom Hardy), a loner and peripatetic vigilante, he has been captured by the tyrannical leader of this desolate world Immortan Joe (Hugh Keayes-Byrne, who will be best remembered for playing the villainous Toecutter in the original Mad Max) the tyrannical ruler of an enclave known as the Citadel. Joe is a formidable tyrant whose features are largely hidden beneath a grotesque mask and breathing tubes. In this harsh and desolate outpost, water is a precious commodity, and Immortan Joe controls it, thus he controls the ravaged population. Max has been captured, tortured and has been turened into a live blood donor for Nux (Nicholas Hoult), one of Joe’s pale skinned warboys.
The film opens with the rebellious Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron, with a shaven head and an artificial arm) driving a massive tanker across a harsh desert wasteland. In the rig she is carrying five concubines and breeders of Immortan Joe. He sends a small army of psychos after Furiosa to capture her and return his women. She is looking for redemption, and also trying to return to the homeland she remembers from her childhood. Thus sets off a long and exciting and extremely noisy demolition derby through the desert. After freeing himself from his captors, Max reluctantly joins her quest.
Mad Max: Fury Road is an extremely visceral film, and the action is fast and furious. Miller stages the high octane action with a vim and vigour and furious energy that belies his 70 years. There is lots of amazing stunt work and some superbly choreographed destruction, efficiently staged by stunt director Guy Norris. There are some complicated action sequences, and some of the most spectacular set pieces staged in a film for quite some time. Much of the action was shot without the aid of CGI, which makes them even more impressive.
There are some 150 handcrafted vehicles used in this nonstop destructive chase across the desert, although some of the cars look like they have taken a detour from the set of Peter Weir’s The Cars That Ate Paris, which is probably a deliberate aesthetic choice by Miller.
The film is set in a grim and bleak dystopian future world. But rather than shooting the film in Australia, Miller has been forced to shoot much of Mad Max: Fury Road in the African nation of Namibia. The wide open and inhospitable landscapes provide a suitably bleak backdrop to the action. Cinematographer John Seale has captured some superbly surreal images, especially with those night time scenes that are bathed in an eerie blue light.
Unusually for such a testosterone-fuelled action movie there is a strong feminine slant to the action. Theron is another strong and capable kick-arse female action hero, in the mold of Linda Hamilton from the first two Terminator movies and Sigourney Weaver’s Ripley from the Alien series. Her story though lends the material some emotional heft amidst the rousing action sequences.
Hardy has a strong physical presence that serves the material well, and while he has a suitably sullen presence as the taciturn anti-hero he lacks the raw sexuality of the young Mel Gibson. An early scene in which he battles against a number of Immortan Joe’s enforcers shows the same physicality he brought to bear in his breakthrough film, the brutal and punishing true prison drama Bronson. And for a star of the film he doesn’t have a lot to say as he doesn’t really speak until about half way through the movie. In fact there is minimal dialogue in the film. Max is almost a secondary character in his own film, as it is Theron’s Furiosa who basically drives the action here. And there is a surprising lack of chemistry between Theron and Hardy.
Hoult seems to be enjoying himself as the reckless Nux, one of Immortan Joe’s so-called “war boys”, who becomes an ally of Furiosa and Max. With his shaven head, his pale pallor and and white body paint, Hoult is nearly unrecogniseable. One of the nubile women is played by model Rosie Huntington-Whiteley. And there is a scene where the five women are bathing in the desert that seems gratuitous and little more than a middle-aged man’s fantasy.
The supporting cast features a number of recogniseable local actors in small roles. And many of the actors playing the psychotic warriors are so distinctive looking that one wonders where Miller found them.
Mad Max: Fury Road ends on a satisfying note, but there is more than a hint that we could see yet another fast and furious outing featuring Mad Max Rockatansky in the not too distant future.