MOVIE REVIEW: ‘Mad Max: Fury Road’ Demolishes Expectations, Elicits Yelps Of Joy


Film: Mad Max: Fury Road
Starring: Tom Hardy, Charlize Theron, Nicholas Hoult
Directed By: George Miller

Every once in a blue moon a summer blockbuster comes and demolishes everything that lay in its path. Mad Max: Fury Road is the film that eviscerates the history of large-scale action films. It throws the gauntlet down at the feet of filmmakers trying to break the studio mold in the past ten years. It’s a film that’s so intricately detailed and visually assaulting that you’d think the powers that be just turned a blind eye in favor of letting director George Miller (Mad Max, The Road Warrior) play without restraint in the violent sandbox that skyrocketed him into cultural history. Weaving through a slew of gorgeous CGI compositions and unabashed violence, the return of Mad Max is the reason why cinema remains a transformative experience that inspires and elicits awe.

Max Rockatansky (Tom Hardy) is once again on the fringes of the post-apocalyptic wasteland that enveloped his past three adventures. Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne) is the megalomaniac with a respirator set out to retrieve his personal property that his crony, Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron), stole from him. Nux (Nicholas Hoult) is the hopeless servant to Immortan’s crazed idealistic beliefs. Fury Road — yes, a road can be a character — is where all shall meet in a hail of gunfire and explosions. Alliances and trusts are made, redemption is sought, and revenge is taken.

Max is a man with honor, reduced down to his primal instinct in the vast wasteland that is now our world. He can’t escape his past, nor can he escape the motorcades of deranged thugs who once knew what honor was. Tom Hardy is a revelation as Max. Rather than talk his way out of things, he carries himself around like this deadly force of brutish nature that was once a logical man. No, seriously, he has about ten lines in the whole film.

Why the silence from the main character? That’s because writer/director George Miller is much more interested in exploring the human psyche as it devolves into a one-way vessel for immense hatred and destruction. Nature over nurture is Miller’s game and every single person in the film is nurtured into killing machines. There’s much more going on beneath the surface here than one would expect from a summer blockbuster. Miller’s personal ideological beliefs leak through every shot. Fury Road plays like a testament to women’s rights and the destruction of the brooding male stereotype that has enveloped so many action films. Just when a cavalcade of male characters starts doling out violence, the women kick harder. There’s no tongue-in-cheek humor for the women to spew at the men. It’s a game of wits played on a chessboard occupied by giant car machinations and S&M garb.

Fury Road is the equivalent of throwing up the middle finger at every big, blow-em-up film that tries to awe but gets grunts instead. The mix of practical effects and truly stunning CGI work make the wasteland look as vibrant as it ever was. If you’re wondering what every single post-apocalyptic film takes from, take a look at Miller’s The Road Warrior. The devil is in the details with every shot he employs in Fury Road. It’s like if those Marvel easter eggs that everyone obsesses over actually mattered to the cohesive whole of a film. His visual motifs are unlike any other because there is no other compared to him. The vision for the film’s unapologetic, unrelenting, and unforgiving setting is matched by the action employed. Someone gets shot, they die. Move on everyone, this isn’t the kind of movie that’ll bring back the dead in the final act.

Charlize Theron is a visceral presence as Furiosa, the tough female heroine that sports a mechanical arm. Like Max, she’s beaten down by her environment. There’s still a glimmer of hope left in her, though. Maybe there’s a way out of the dangerous mess she’s caused for herself. This non-continuous universe that Miller crafted uses barebones plot to showcase human nature at its worst and best. There’s no convoluted nonsense where a whole team of superheroes have to chase a MacGuffin around until the end credits. It’s a 2-hour car chase that will pin you to your seat and won’t let you get up until the desert spits you back out. You’ll walk out feeling exhausted, riveted, inspired by the madness you just induced. The catch here is that you won’t feel so assaulted that your head is spinning for hours after the end credits roll. You will want another hour to spend with these characters who harbor unique dialects and idiosyncracies.

Fret not, Fury Road isn’t the kind of film that believes that bleak and dark is the only narrative through line in blockbuster cinema. When you think things may dive for the dark, Miller reminds you that every cog working here is playful. For cripes sake, there’s a man playing an electric guitar fashioned to a flamethrower as his motor float of death cruises into oblivion. The physical and verbal jokes raise up the film to be this kind of sadistic and twisted R-rated cartoon. Miller doesn’t practice in blood squibs and exploding heads, he saves the money shots for when the viewer is completely invested in the journey. The kind of scenes that make a whole crowd yelp for joy with an underscore of surprising disgust; that’s what Fury Road is a master in.

It’s really hard not to use superlatives to explain how important it is that you get yourself to the nearest theater to check out this film. People flocked to the theaters when The Dark Knight was labeled a modern treasure. Miller’s Fury Road is a masterpiece that reminds us that cinema is still alive and fucking kicking. Miller dropped the mic and then stepped on it. I’d like to see someone even try to repair the damage. It probably won’t be as fun as watching Fury Road.


Review written by: Sam Cohen (follow him on Twitter!)

Sam Cohen

Sam Cohen is that guy you can't have a conversation with without bringing up Michael Mann. He is also incapable of separating himself from his teenage angst (looking at you, Yellowcard). Read on as he tries to formulate words about movies!
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