Sorry, Furious 7 but Max Mad: Fury Road is THE most thrilling action movie on wheels this year! And it may just emerge the winner of the summer blockbuster derby for pushing the envelope, both in terms of filming action and telling a gloriously defiant story you can really sink your teeth into.
In this sort-of sequel/revisit, Max Rockatansky (Tom Hardy) is captured yet again, and used as a “blood bag” for the war boys, an army of sickly but crazed, violent petrolheads who rely on blood transfusions from other human bodies to temporarily sustain themselves.
The war boys work for and worship Immortan Joe, a tyrant who controls the destitute populace like your CEO from hell – everything and everyone is his property to be used and discarded as he sees fit. He also keeps them in check by holding their water supply hostage and rationing it out like minimum wage.
Played by Australian character actor Hugh Keays-Byrne, who was magnetic psychopath Toecutter in the original Mad Max movie, Joe does in fact look like Satan’s general. He’s got a shock of wild hair and a grisly toothy mask that locks his face in a perpetual evil grin.
Joe sends out his most trusted “commander” Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron in an astonishing yet controlled performance) to go on a gasoline run in her War Rig, a large armoured truck.
What Joe doesn’t know is that Furiosa is actually smuggling his five long-suffering wives out of the citadel. Together, they’re going to make a break for it to “the green place”: Furiosa’s childhood home where living things still grow.
Immortan Joe then chases after them, dragging out his entire army with him. Max unwittingly goes along for the ride because he has become the blood bag for a war boy named Nux (a startling turn by Nicholas Hoult).
What ensues is the most outrageous and exhilarating vehicular pursuit in movie history, across a desolate but magnificent desert landscape.
No, really! There’ve been a number of exciting road/racing movies over the course of cinema history like Vanishing Point (1971) and Doomsday (2008), as well as the Fast and Furious movies. But Fury Road is here to show us that we haven’t seen jack shit!
Eighty five percent of the action and almost all of the fighting takes place on the customised vehicles… as they’re racing up and down the sand dunes! Characters brawl, shoot, spear, fence off and stab at each other from car to car, and truck to truck.
Theron describes it best during an interview with Yahoo when she said they basically “shot a war movie on a moving truck”.
Add a CGI super sandstorm complete with tornadoes, and you have a kind of juiced up spectacle that you’ve never quite seen on screen before: Action that unfolds gloriously and is unrelenting.
You really get the sense that with a big, fat budget of $150 million and all the advancements in filmmaking technology over the last 30 years, returning director George Miller was able to make the Mad Max movie he’s always wanted to make.
But just because Miller has pumped up the Mad Max universe, doesn’t mean he’s abandoned the things that we loved about the original franchise.
For one, this post-apocalyptic wasteland is filled with off-the-wall characters and diverse communities, each with their own interesting belief system and sometimes even their own vernacular.
Secondly, the Mad Max mythology is intact. After the events of the first Mad Max movie, Max is essentially a drifter who doesn’t want to get involved in your mess, but eventually helps because he empathises with your cause.
It has to be said here that Tom Hardy’s interpretation of Max is one that is respectful towards Mel Gibson’s careful development of the character in the original trilogy of movies.
He doesn’t get to say much – his dialogue consists mostly of grunts, whistles, incoherent mumbling and the snapping of fingers. But because he is the veteran that he is, a mere look conveys as much emotion as spoken words.
This brings us to Charlize Theron’s astonishing performance – her Imperator Furiosa is badass! She’s kind, resourceful, has a mind for strategies and is a formidable opponent in a fistfight!
In fact, one could even argue that Furiosa is a much more nuanced character than Max and she certainly carried the film. She might even have stolen Hardy’s thunder. The relationship between the two lead characters is one of mutual respect and hallelujah it doesn’t collapse into the typical romantic love affair.
For this, I must kowtow to George Miller, who also wrote the script, and his co-writers Brendan McCarthy and Nick Lathouris. They have successfully created female characters who I can actually get behind!
Which is a happy development to me. Before Tina Turner’s Aunty Entity in Mad Max 3: Beyond Thunderdome, female characters were either victims or terribly sidelined. But in Fury Road, women FINALLY get proper representation.
What’s more, the major female characters, like Furiosa’s old clan members and Immortan Joe’s wives, are resilient, defiant, clever and very useful in a fight. They also demonstrate proper sisterhood and none of this competing with one another for the male attention type nonsense.
As a Mad Max fangirl and a cinephile who loves action movies, I am thoroughly impressed by Fury Road. This is not a reboot for the sake of the trend but a highly worthy revival!
Mad Max: Fury Road is out in Singapore now. Have you seen it? Tell us what you think!