It seems bizarre Mad Max: Fury Road ever got made. Stuck in development hell for the best part of 15 years, Fury Road continues George Miller’s silly post-apocalyptical series after a 30 year absence. In the meantime, Miller has worked on family entertainment, with the first instalments of Babe and Happy Feet proving mega box office successes, yet little would suggest that this director was ready for a $150m budget to create such an awe inspiring, bizarre, otherworldly vision. It is a frenetic nightmare, genuinely unlike anything ever filmed before.
The design of the film is breathtaking. Fury Road‘s post-apocalypse burns one terrifying images upon the other. A desert wasteland, with water and oil beyond scarce resources, the imagination that has been pored into every detail to make this world real and horrifying is overwhelming, a gorgeous steam-punkish aesthetic. In days when everything feels derivative for better or worse, the creativity in this film is awe-inspiring. It is a solid two hour chase sequence with barely any let up, it unravels in an eye boggling, open mouthed daze. Story and character are thin but if time was afforded to such frivolity it would perhaps not be the same, unique specimen. The boldness to even attempt such pacing is applaudable, to pull it off with such near precision is an astonishing achievement.
Max (Tom Hardy) is captured by a cult ruled by the tyrannical King Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne). He is used as a ‘blood bag’ for the sickly Nux (Nicholas Hoult). Meanwhile, Furiosa (Charlize Theron) helps Joe’s Five Wives (Joe’s ‘breeders’) escape his clutches, leading Joe to unleash his War Boys, including Nux with Max strapped to him, all in pursuit. The frame rate is constantly being manipulated to make the astonishing action and quick cuts easier to compute, completely memorising the viewer. Largely relying on real stunts, Mad Max unleashes a compulsive energy. Despite being endlessly audacious and over the top, there’s a kinetic physicality beneath it all, aided by the thumping sound design. The film includes a heavy metal guitarist and band of drummers strapped to one of the Warlord’s vehicles, an ingenious piece of military detail that fits both the world and the film’s soundscape gleefully. The roaring of the resplendent vehicles vibrate internally, one of many of the film’s innate, impulsive features
Charlize Theron is the film’s real lead, the feminist emancipator and all round tough cookie. For all its strengths, character motivations are not always so clear and the distinct lack of character afforded to Max makes it odd for him to be eponymous, whilst the five wives blur into a mesh making the feminist accolades the film has been awarded seem a little over the top. A romance between Nux and one of the wives is particularly underdeveloped and unnecessary. However, these are only slight criticisms for a film so littered with creative sparks. There’s only loose connection to the original films, with Fury Road standing alone confidently as an almighty, strange slice of breathless, pure action cinema.
Review by David Rank
Mad Max: Fury Road is out now in the UK and US. Running time 120 mins. Certificate 15 (UK).