George Miller, no longer content with directing films such as Happy Feet, not only returns to the type of cinema that jump started his cinematic career way back in 1979, but also to his most famous creation – Mad Max, the lone hero surviving in a crazy, post apocalyptic world gone to the dogs. With Tom Hardy taking over from Mel Gibson as the titular Australian nutter, and with Miller taking his first stab at action cinema since 1985’s Beyond Thunderdome, it’s certainly a film with a lot of weight and expectation riding on it.
Mad Max: Fury Road doesn’t disappoint though. Strong and confident from the off, the film starts by pressing down hard on the accelerator and doesn’t let up for the remaining two hours. There’s no long character introductions or set-up. Miller is smarter than that, teasing his audience with enough basic information, before giving them what they’ve really paid the price of admission for – high-octane carnage on a grandstanding level.
The story is basic (in fact, it’s just one long desert car chase for most of the running time), whilst the character development is minute. And yet there’s enough to keep people invested throughout, despite the simplicity. Miller doesn’t need long strands of dialogue to tell the audience who is who and what is what. Like with the previous Mad Max films, he lets the actions of the heroes and villains tell you all you need to know.
Visually, the film is as anarchic and insane as its central villain, Immortan Joe. The costume and make-up work on the various War Boys and their monstrous vehicles are delightfully terrifying, whilst the explosive action scenes often put the Fast and Furious films to shame. The snappily paced editing, the bright and sumptuous cinematography, the head banging, ominous score – all help to create that sense of insanity which goes in tandem with the setting and themes of the Mad Max films.
Which brings us to Max himself. Tom Hardy is, as ever, on fine form here. Yes, he barely utters a line throughout the film, and when he does, it’s often low-key and underplayed. But beneath his exterior, there’s that ever-present sense of turmoil, of unburdened rage and world-weariness. If there’s any criticism to be raised to the film, it’s that Max perhaps doesn’t get a fair share of the narrative whip, so to speak – yes, he gets a few good action moments, but a lot more of them go to other characters instead. That said, the other characters (particularly Charlize Theron’s Furiosa and Nicholas Hoult’s Nux) are developed enough for it not to matter too much when they do take centre stage over Max.
It’s the action people will come for, and the action that people will remember the film for. Pacy, directed with style and panache, and with plenty of strong beats that keep tension high throughout the film’s running time, Fury Road delivers strongly on the crazy violence quota with gusto!
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