Mad Max: Fury Road is shit your pants amazing. Let’s get that out of the way first.
After a three decade absence, George Miller returned to the post apocalyptic desert wasteland with the chaotic delight of a small child smashing his toy trucks together in his backyard sandbox. Fury Road adapts the template of the great spaghetti westerns of Sergio Leone or Sam Peckinpah and reimagines them for our modern age, delivering a massive spectacle of action and mayhem that rarely pauses to give the audience a chance to its collective breath. The result is the most exciting and refreshing summer blockbuster of the season.
Fury Road is a chase film that kicks off in the opening minute and doesn’t stop until the credits roll. With Fury Road, Millers creates all sorts of weaponized vehicles to tear through the parched Australian desert, each one more capable of tearing through flesh and bone than the one before it. Bodies launch themselves from one vehicle to the next from mounted poles wavering back and forth through the air. War rigs blast through spike-plated assault vehicles like a thoroughbred swatting away flies. The War Boys sent to bring down Max and Furiosa appear to be shot out of cannons and come in never ending waves at Max and Furiosa. It’s a film that drives relentless forward until there’s no place left to go, at which point it pulls a one-eighty, heading back towards the way it came in order to pick off the remaining pursuers. The action starts out grandiose and manages to maintain that scale for the entirety of its two hour runtime.
At the outset of Fury Road, Max is hunted and captured by the War Boys, scavengers for the local warlord Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne). From there he’s turned into a living blood bag for Nux (Nicolas Hoult), one of the many war boys succumbing to nuclear radiation. Joe lords over the people by controlling the water supply, offering the impoverished, sickly and diseased masses a mere trickle each while he and his sons drink fresh breast milk pumped from Joe’s growing concubine. When Joe’s trusted lieutenant Furiosa (Charlize Theron) absconds with his most prized brides, Max finds himself strapped to the hood of Nux’s war rider as part of the fleet sent to give chase and bring back the women. After an absolutely magnificent and extended sequence through a raging dust storm, Max and Furiosa find themselves thrown together. Furiosa’s goal is to get the women to the fabled “Green Place,” the less violent colony led by the Vulvani. It’s the place she called home until Joe stole her away.
Tom Hardy steps into the role of Max Rockatansky like a boss. Proving once again he’s one of the modern age’s most adaptable movie stars, Hardy barely says a word throughout the film. Instead, he conveys Max’s weariness and boiling frustration through facial contortions while coiling his body to strike out violently at less than a moments notice. Hardy is so assured in his performance as Max that he appears to have no qualms about being a supporting player in his own movie. While his name is in the title, Fury Road is a true ensemble piece. If anyone owns the film, it would be Charlize Theron. Furiosa has the heroes arc of the film. Miller writes her as Max’s equal, every bit as tough and capable as him. Though the pair are at odds at the outset, the two quickly become allies, as the two share a bond that can only be forged by those who spent time in the foxholes together can develop. Furiosa stands out as the most developed character in the film, one who has ample reason to despise Immortan Joe and the life he stole from her, but who refuses to take her eye of her end goal in order to take revenge on the warlord. I haven’t said much about Hoult as the War Boy Nux, but he becomes the emotional heart of the film. He begins the film with a death wish and a desire to be accepted at the gates of Valhalla by warriors that have gone before him, but becomes something far greater as the film goes on. While a lesser film would have given them a hive mentality, the brides of Joe each have their own personality, and each handle their situation in their own fashion. Some are defiant, some go with the flow and some wish to turn back and throw themselves at the mercy of Joe at the first sign of distress. As King Immortan Joe, encased in death mask and a muscled up body armor meant to hide the ravages of disease and age, Kears-Byrne brings to life one of the best villains in modern movie history.
Yet Fury Road is much more than a stupid summer “shoot-’em-up” blockbuster. Amidst the chaos of explosions and fury, Miller crafted a work that brims with smart social commentary. Fury Road offers a scorching takedown of our culture’s war mongering and overwhelming desire to horde and consume all resources despite the environmental costs. When Joe enters the prison/domicile his brides call home, he’s met by graffiti that asks “WHO KILLED THE WORLD?” when the answer is obvious. Men killed the world through their greed, through their constant need to take more and more without giving back and through their bloodlust.
Amongst a summer movie season where The Avengers has come under fire for questions regarding Black Widow’s portrayal and men’s rights clowns kicked up such a stir over all-female Ghostbusters that a second all-male followup was swiftly announced, the greatest accomplishment of Fury Road is Miller’s swift, brutal takedown of the Patriarchy. Fury Road may be the most pro-feminist movie of the year. It’s not just Furiosa’s resolve and ability to stand shoulder to shoulder alongside Max. It’s not just the determination of Immortan Joe’s on-the-lam wives to be seen as something other than possessions for their male jailers. Miller also gives us the Vulvani as an alternative to the bloodlust of Immortan Joe, The Citadel and the variety of feudal lords that pop up throughout the film. The elders of the Vulvani carved out a peaceful existence in the wasteland, surviving by banding together rather than lashing out. Yet as the film barrels towards its breathtaking climax, the women give every bit as good as they get, tearing through War Boys like a hot knife through soft butter. It’s important to note the band of women are not anti-male. Like Furiosa, the Vulvani accept Max and Nux as allies and equals.
Mad Max: Fury Roadis the perfect action spectacle. It pummels audiences with bloody mayhem from start to finish, offers the audience enough big concept ideas to chew on after they digest the explosions and manages to be the anti-Nolan by being more concerned with exploring the frailty of mankind and the bonds that bind us together. Hardy proves himself to be the perfect choice to pick up the banner Mel Gibson carried for three films, and the wasteland still feels so vast and unexplored that you can’t help but salivate of Miller’s next foray into that world. In the meantime, there’s a perfect slab of cinema greatness playing near you. Put down your computer and tear ass to your multiplex right fucking now.