Monday , 24 July 2017

Non-stop action fuels Mad Max: Fury Road – review

Mad Max poster

Whewwww! Now that is a movie! Roaring onto screens everywhere, Mad Max: Fury Road gives new meaning to the term, ‘action film.’ Indeed, it is not so much of a popcorn movie, but rather an extra large bucket of meat movie. It is completely unlike any other movie, except of course, the previous Mad Max films, but it ups the ante on them too.

Back in 1979 (1980 in the states), a fresh-faced unknown named Mel Gibson played Max Rockatansky, a law enforcement officer trying to maintain peace in a crumbling society becoming more and more ruled by anarchy. By 1982’s The Road Warrior, Max has become a shell of his former self, and the now post-apocalyptic world has become a desert where the most precious commodity is gasoline to fuel the vehicles that rule the desert. After one more film, Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome, in 1985, the series lay dormant for thirty years. Now, it has been given new life, with Tom Hardy in the role of Max and Charlize Theron as Imperator Furiosa.

The plot is relatively simple. An imprisoned Max must join forces with Furiosa in an attempt to reach a place that offers hope of a better existence than the one ruled by the tyrannical Immortan Joe in this post-nuclear world. Travelling in an armored oil rig, they engage in a constant battle while chased by Joe’s army of soldiers and vehicles.

Mad Max Guitar Guy

Once again directed by George Miller, who also did the three previous installments, Mad Max: Fury Road is a singularly unique vision, like the earlier films, with colorful characters, bleak landscape and incredible car chases and stunts. The fact that all this mayhem was done with practical effects on screen (production designer Colin Gibson deserves a lot of credit), makes the film even more amazing. Much like in ’82’s The Road Warrior, you’ll be left breathless, all while wondering how they managed to film these sequences without actually killing anybody.

mad_max_fury_road_immortan_joe_by_maltian-d89hlf8

And while the non-stop action certainly stands out, it’s the rich collection of characters that make the film more than just a thrill ride. Tom Hardy is perfect as Max, the man of few words. And while he is the movie’s titular character, it is Charlize Theron as Furiosa, who takes center stage for much of the story. Indeed, she is in the forefront of a lot of the film’s publicity material. Sporting a nearly bald head and a mechanical arm, she plays someone utterly determined to reach her goal, and completely capable of doing so. But she is not the only strong female character in a film that is rich with them. Accompanying Max and Furiosa on their journey are a bevy of beauties who can each hold their own. Played by Rosie Huntington-Whitely, Zoe Kravitz, Riley Keough, Abbey Lee and Courtney Eaton, they aren’t just along for the ride, but do their share to achieve the mission. And even they aren’t the only women in the film who get involved in the action. It is rare enough to see such a powerful female role model as Furiosa in a big summer film (Angelina Jolie in Wanted or Scarlett Johansson as Black Widow). But it is rarer still, and maybe even non-existent, to see so many women of action in a film. The Road Warrior had one character (called ‘Warrior Woman’, played by Virginia Hey), who could stand up to the guys. But this film is loaded with such strong women. So, while on the surface, Mad Max: Fury Road certainly is a ‘guy’s movie’, it’s display of female empowerment gives it a much broader (no pun intended) appeal.

Mad Max girls

Not to shortchange the guys, also terrific is Hugh Keays-Byrne as the menacing, hulking, Vader-like Joe. What’s worth noting is that Keays-Byrne also appeared in the first Mad Max movie as the primary villain, Toecutter. It is amazing that 35 years later he can still portray such an imposing figure. And, last, but not least, is Nicholas Hoult as the War Boy, Nux, a radiation-diseased driver dying for some action. Best known for playing the zombie lead of Warm Bodies , Beast in the latest X-Men films and the title character in Jack the Giant Killer, Hoult is virtually unrecognizable as Nux. He adds a lot of spirit to a film that is already full of heart and soul. And he also utters the enjoyable line, “Oh, what a day, what a lovely day!” seen in many of the TV spots.

Mad Max N. Hoult

With 1982’s The Road Warrior, Australia’s George Miller took the action movie to a new level. Thirty-three years later, no one had been able to match that film’s intensity and unbelievable vehicular stunts. Until now. Mad Max: Fury Road is a non-stop adrenaline-fueled desert road film that has so much going on, it warrants repeat viewings. Once is simply not enough to take in and enjoy all the stunts and action up there on the screen. And it is unlikely we’ll see anything like it again, at least until the next Mad Max movie.

— review by Brian de Castro

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