"Out here, everything hurts. You wanna get through this? Do as I say. Now pick up what you can and run." -
Sometimes a movie transcends all expectations, presenting a monumental vision so unique and daring that you find yourself falling in love (all over again) with cinema as an art form. Mad Max: Fury Road is one of those movies, a film that boldly excels on all levels. It is a triumph of action, intensity, acting, and message.
The plot is basic: Water and gasoline are the most valuable commodities in a post-apocalyptic future. Immortan Joe and his "War Boys" rule an evil village called the Citadel. Joe sends his war lieutenant Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron) out into the desert for gasoline - but she takes Joe's wives with her instead to escape to the "Green Place." Furiosa enlists the aid of Mad Max Rockatansky (Tom Hardy), a lone survivor of the world's catastrophes.
Immortan Joe and his team give chase across the desert. His "War Boys" follow in enormous monster truck hot rods, spraying their mouths with chrome spray paint in a bizarre quasi-religious ritual to become "eternal shiny and chrome." Joe's freakish warriors fly across the screen, throwing bombs and fiery spears at Furiosa and Max as their cars scream across the desert. A heavy metal guitarist shoots fire from his instrument as he shreds atop a racing vehicle. There is no doubt that this is a completely insane world.
Despite the over-the-top look and feel of Mad Max: Fury Road, the empathy underlying the film is the real engine that drives it forward. Writer Eve Ensler (Vagina Monologues) was a key consultant on Fury Road, and she helped to shape the female characters in the script. Fury Road takes place in a world that men have destroyed - yet the storyline makes it clear that women are the key to the future. When Immortan Joe's five captive wives (one of which is pregnant) escape the Citadel, they leave behind a message on the wall: "Women are not things." Furiosa may be an action hero (Theron more than holds her own in battle after battle), but there is a sound reason why many hail Fury Road as a modern feminist classic.
Deep into Mad Max: Fury Road, there is a scene that helps to define the film in many ways. Furiosa realizes that the "Green Place," an Eden she thought she was escaping to, no longer exists. Her sanctuary was destroyed by contamination, entirely laid to waste. It was her last chance to return to a kind, nurturing environment. Upon learning this, she falls to her knees and screams, alone on the dunes, piercing the desert in a soul-crushing howl. It is a visually gorgeous image, yet her pain is monumental. The impact is clear: the cry is not just for her - but also the loss of a safe, caring world. This scene is the heart that anchors Fury Road's intensely unhinged, gorgeously insane world.
Stylistically, there is no movie to compare with Mad Max: Fury Road. It is stunning: a gasoline-fueled abstract painting of heavy metal, both in sight and sound, a completely over-the-top film masterpiece. You could halt the movie at any point, and the beauty of veteran cinematographer John Seale's art is such that you might hang it on a gallery wall. The vistas of sky and sand are breathtaking, and the contrast composition matches the over-saturated color's look. The film's black and white version also hammers home that point. Fury Road may be a bonker's adrenaline rush, but it is a visually beautiful work of art in its own right.
Mad Max: Fury Road is the fourth installment in the Mad Max Franchise, and it is by far the best. The intense action of the movie is simply mind-blowing. Filmed at unusual frame rates, then sped back, Fury Road has a phenomenal, almost convulsive feel. It's a non-stop marathon of mayhem and madness that would grow tiresome if helmed by most directors. But under the skilled guidance of George Miller, it is mesmerizing. A thrilling, insanely gripping action film, Mad Max: Fury Road may be the best film of the 2010s. (A-)
Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)
Directed by George Miller
Tom Hardy, Charlize Theron, Nicholas Hoult, Hugh Keays-Byrne, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, Riley Keough, Zoë Kravitz, Abbey Lee, Courtney Eaton
Genre: Drama, Action, Science-Fiction
Mad Max: Fury Road (2015) Photo: Warner Brothers