In an era where nearly all action movies are filmed entirely on green screens and edited into incoherence with a cast of poorly written characters, Mad Max: Fury Road is a strong, defiant blast.
George Miller returns to the franchise 30 years after Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome, but no previous knowledge of his dystopian films with Mel Gibson is required to enjoy the myriad thrills on display. Tom Hardy fills in as Max, a guilt-ridden ex-cop captured by a group of soldiers loyal to Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne), an aging dictator. He's sent his goons out to reclaim a truck driven by Furiosa (Charlize Theron) because she's carrying an illegal payload: Joe's prize concubines.The very crux of the mission is feminist at heart, but Miller and his writers go a step further, giving all the ladies their own personalities, tastes and failures (one girl even considers running back to her tormentor). In fact, nearly all the speaking parts are characters that feel thought out instead of one more piece of cannon fodder."¨
Fury Road hits the gas early and never lets up. Miller seems to have conceived this whole crazy thing, looked at how it could have been done easily, then threw away that idea for something even more jaw-dropping. There's an element of danger that makes you feel like everyone was put at risk for the sake of a stunt. Shooting in the unforgiving Namib Desert instead of a comfortable studio, there's a grittiness that simply can't be faked. And like last year's John Wick, there's an elegance to all the face-punching and gunfire.
Some of Fury Road's spectacle is a little too much (we didn't need a musician riding atop a truck with flames shooting out of his guitar). But I'm glad Miller went for it. Too many blockbusters play it safe, not trusting their audience to accept the outrageous or the thought-provoking. He even finds time for some gallows humor and religious satire.
The summer has just begun, but it's hard to see another movie equalling this one's grand ambition, deep ideas and awe-inspiring action. Believe the hype.