Reviewed By: Jack Dawson
Image Credit: The Ralph Retort
It’s a special kind of movie that makes you realise your standards are too low.
Up until I saw Mad Max: Fury Road, I thought that The Avengers: Age of Ultron had some decent action, I thought that The Blues Brothers had some great car chases, and I thought that Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome was one of the most creative and fully realised renditions of a post-apocalyptic society in film.
But now I know better. This film is the best Action film that’s come along in years, it’s definitely one of the best Australian films to come out recently, and I’d say that it’s the best film in the already excellent Mad Max series.
Australia has descended into anarchy and savage splendour by way of Nuclear War, and everyone lies broken in its wake. But as Max discovers, there’s a new power that has arisen in the Outback, a legion of hyper-masculine Warriors led by the charismatic Immorten Joe, who quickly abduct Max and turn him into a Human Blood bank. Little does anyone know, Imperator Furiosa has a plan involving Immorton Joe’s Wives and a Truck fitted for Combat, which Max unwittingly gets caught up in.
And after that, the chase begins, and doesn’t end until two hours later.
This is, hands down, the best action movie I’ve ever seen. The Mad Max series has always been known for its fast kinetic pace and its glorious approach of ‘show don’t tell’ when explaining background details and character motivations. But Fury Road just takes it to a hitherto unseen level.
We don’t need to be told the minutia of how Immorton Joe maintains his power base, we just see his control over local reserves of water and the brainwashing he subjects his soldiers to. We don’t need the details of why Furiosa wants redemption, we just need to see what Joe’s soldiers get up to, how women are treated, and then put two and two together.
And my god we are shown some fantastic stuff. Some of the best stunts ever put on screen with some of the best editing to match. Entirely realised worlds with a wealth of backstory and detail constructed around them. A careful balance of colour and lighting that keeps the film from looking unpleasant or monotonous.
And a character called the Coma Doof Warrior who spends his days playing a guitar with a Flamethrower attachment.
It doesn’t hurt that the cars have personalities which are all their own, and the benefit of every one of them being driveable is obvious once you see them inaction.
It doesn’t hurt that we get one of the most overtly Feminist stories seen in film in years (to the point where some truly unpleasant Misogynsits have tried to boycott the movie), replete with some of the best characters in the series. Max is his usual taciturn self, and the frequent visions he’s haunted by help convince us more than ever that he’s mentally unwell. It’s a different turn to Gibson’s approach, but it works well here, Tom Hardy plays the part with a great deal of pent up energy.
And as you’ve no doubt heard, Charlize Theron as Imperator Furiosa is a revelation, and I can’t say I mind her and Max sharing the spotlight one bit. She has a lot more to say than Max, and she works as a decent foil who jumpstarts the plot.
I can’t think of a single flat character or off performance, even minor characters like The People Eater or The Valkyrie make the most of their screen time.
It’s worth noting that the Wives have their own distinctive personalities, and take an active part in the proceedings that follow, which quickly earns our sympathy and interest. After films like The Hobbit where I struggled to differentiate between the many Dwarves on screen, it’s a refreshing change of pace to be able to clearly distinguish the wives from one another.
Of course no movie is without flaw, though I had to look pretty hard for the flaws in this film. It is true that while Fury Road does some truly delightful things with its female characters, there aren’t a lot of people of colour in speaking roles, which is actually a valid concern for a movie that addresses the mechanics of privilege and oppression so well. It’s actually really difficult to make out what some characters are saying in all the confusion, and though you won’t miss out any plot details, I will be looking forward to the DVD release if only for the subtitles. And even as someone who’s seen all the films and is studying the franchise for their dissertation, I’m actually really confused about Fury Road’s place in the series continuity. Max’s child, previously referred to by male pronouns (and also a baby) is now represented by a small girl in his hallucinations. Also, I’m not sure how old Max is supposed to be, but judging by the age of other characters who lived before the apocalypse and the many generations that have lived and died since Atomic fire consumed the world, the answer would be ‘older than Tom Hardy’.
But those faults hardly negate the many positive qualities of this film, which is most definitely worth your time. It’s one of the best Australian films in years, and a welcome return for the Mad Max Franchise and its Director George Miller. Be warned though, you’ll be finding every action film that comes out afterwards to be severely lacking in comparison.