With ‘Mad Max: Fury Road’ receiving exceptionally positive reviews from advance screenings this week, and hitting the dizzying heights of a 9.3 rating on IMDb, one could be excused for expecting a mind-blowing cinematic spectacle. But after the slightly underwhelming ‘Avengers: Age Of Ultron’, we have learnt to take pre-release hype with a pinch of salt. That said, with a collection of reviews unanimous in their effusive praise for the Tom Hardy led blockbuster, it was difficult to imagine this film falling flat. Surely, that many people couldn’t have been wrong? After trawling through the original trilogy, we were determined not to compare ‘Fury Road’ to its predecessors of decades past, simply due to the advancements in the film industry. With improved special effects and huge budgets today, there’s no way the originals could match up to this reboot, and every penny of the $100m budget was spent in ensuring this was the case.
We open with a weathered and dishevelled Max Rockatansky (Tom Hardy), spouting an impacting monologue which sets the tone of the crazy world we are plunged into the heart of. Max is quickly captured and held hostage as a blood donor for the frail war-boys of the Citadel, which finds itself under the oppressive rule of Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne). Under orders from their gruesome dictator, Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron) and her team of vagabonds head out in search of valuable gasoline and weaponry from neighbouring towns. When Furiosa leads her convoy off course, Immortan Joe soon recognises signs of treason and orders a full scale pursuit of his stolen property that she has on board. At the head of the chase, is the ambitious war-boy Nux (Nicholas Hoult), who with his newfound bloodbank in toe, races into the eye of the storm with dreams of becoming a hero. That’s the first 15 minutes or so tied up, and what follows for the next 105 minutes is a high-octane, adrenalin-fuelled compilation of explosions, gunfire and violence.
There are murmurs amongst the film critic community, that something isn’t quite right with Tom Hardy’s portrayal of Max. Either that, or the characterisation of our protagonist has limited his ability to deliver a top performance. In our view, that’s nonsense. Tom Hardy shines in a role with very little dialogue, purely on the basis that he fulfils all the elements of the enigmatic, dark, dangerous hero we want from an action movie. Alongside him in the fight for redemption, Charlize Theron is outstanding as our heroine, Imperator Furiosa. Theron takes on a clinical and powerful lead female character, and matches Tom Hardy blow for blow throughout. Anyone who has seen the trailers for ‘Fury Road’, will be familiar with Nicholas Hoult’s character and his deliverance of the film’s tagline, “what a lovely day”. In his role as Nux, Hoult switches acutely between a psychotic façade and an underlying, fragile core. Hugh Keays-Byrne returns to the franchise, after his role as Toecutter in the first ‘Mad Max’ film, to play supervillain Immortan Joe perfectly. The mastermind behind it all, George Miller, really did get everything right with the characterisation of the ‘Fury Road’ foe. From his grotesque appearance, to his menacing voice, to his malignant, ruthless demeanour, Immortan Joe is head and shoulders above Max’s previous adversaries.
We don’t even know where to begin when describing the triumphs of the visual experience we were treated to, with the huge IMAX screen and impressive 3D effects improving an already astonishing spectacle. The whole film is set against a truly stunning backdrop of desert wastelands, which provide an endless canvas on which George Miller has painted a brutal masterpiece. The use of CGI was limited to creating only the extreme environments in which the battle takes place, meaning many of the stunts were genuine, an impressive feat when considering the scale of the action and the explosive nature of just about every scene. Any setting which was enhanced by CGI, was all the more exceptional for it, with the use of colour and light creating a rich and impacting frame. Despite such a vast landscape, the majority of the film provoked a sensation of claustrophobia, in the most positive sense of the word. The musical score to accompany the film was faultless, with a mixture of intense, classical motifs and heavy rock guitar riffs. The chaotic nature of the non-diegetic music only served to embellish an already incredibly mad and disturbed world. Whoever’s idea it was to tie a satanic guitarist to the top of one of Immortan Joe’s four-wheeled juggernauts deserves a massive pat on the back; this inspired addition provided the impetus for more carnage and channelled the devilishly, dark tone of the film expertly.
You’ll get people complaining about the lack of a narrative in ‘Mad Max: Fury Road’. To those people, we say, “who cares”. You don’t go to see a film like this hoping for a thought-provoking narrative. You watch it for the fun of high-speed car chases, the colossal explosions, the bloody violence and full-on entertainment value. Each film in the original trilogy seemed to be failing at a spinning plates act; where they succeeded in one element, this would mean sacrificing another. ‘Mad Max: Fury Road’ has no such problems, delivering absolutely everything you could want from an action movie to a staggering degree. We said we wouldn’t compare this film against the original trilogy, but it would be unfair on this reboot not to mention how George Miller’s latest offering exceeds all his previous work. The perfect definition of an action blockbuster, leaving any competitors and predecessors trailing in its wake.
DIRECTOR: GEORGE MILLER
STARRING: TOM HARDY, CHARLIZE THERON, NICHOLAS HOULT, HUGH KEAYS-BRYNE