Mad Max: Fury Road
Mad Max: Fury Road
(George Miller, 2015)
Reviewed by Dave Lancaster
Summary: Thirty years after the original Mad Max trilogy ended, the best in the series arrives out of nowhere and ignites the screen. When most other filmmakers consider retirement, George Miller has crafted an essential of modern action cinema.
George Miller has to have one of the most diverse film careers going. He exploded out of the fertile Australian outback cinema scene with the bracing, no-nonsense Mad Max in 1979 which spawned two increasingly epic and offbeat sequels. Then he adapted acclaimed author John Updike for Hollywood with Jack Nicholson in the lead of the devilishly entertaining The Witches of Eastwick. He dropped it down a gear for the searing medical drama Lorenzo's Oil and then delighted families the world over (and bagged two Oscar nominations for his writing on producing work) on the smash hit Babe. Then he turned animation king and won an Oscar for making Happy Feet. Now he's back full circle and madder than ever in his seventh decade to bring us Mad Max: Fury Road. A long and winding road brought Miller here and his journey appears to have aged the filmmaker for the better.
What Fury Road has gained since the first Mad Max film is a culmination of all of the aforementioned milestones in Miller's career. It's all here from the desperate family struggle of Lorenzo's Oil to the jet black comedy and girl power vibe of The Witches of Eastwick, the quest for acceptance in Babe to the delirious visuals and breakneck pace of Happy Feet. This isn't just a franchise reboot; it's a reaffirmation of the vigour that sparked his career four decades ago coupled with insight rarely seen in the action genre.
Replacing Mel Gibson, Tom Hardy is a Max of few words but his face wears his years of mourning and regret. His actions are now just primal. He isn't looking to be a hero but when put in a position in which siding with the villains would mean certain death he obliges and partners with Charlize Theron's one armed liberator Imperator Furiosa on her journey to take a bunch of freed women slaves out oppression and towards her own childhood homeland. Fury Road is essentially one long chase movie across a barren post-apocalyptic desert wasteland whereby water, gasoline, blood transfusions and women capable of bearing healthy children are the only bargaining chips.
Fury Road is a film that brings the human condition down to its very essence. It is a picture of vicious desperation, tribal instinct and essential violence. You could read it as a contemporary war film. Or an outback western. Or, just on its base level, as a searing action film punctuated with dry wit and scattershot comedy. That it works on so many disparate levels is a testament to George Miller's vision as a writer and director who managed to snag a spot for the film to open the Cannes Film Festival out of competition, prompting many insiders to lament that Fury Road was actually a more worthy film than a lot of the artsy films that were in competition. Regardless of accolades, Fury Road is a winner. It demands your attention and holds it for every minute.