Mad Max: Fury Road Review: Pedal, Meet Metal

Mad Max: Fury Road Review
out of 5

Words and phrases like “high octane” and “brutal” are so easily thrown around these days when it comes to describing certain films that they begin to lose their meaning. Furious 7 was about a gang of car driving thieves, so it was “high octane,” and Hugh Jackman’s Prisoners a few years ago was “brutal” in spots. But now, writer/director George Miller has returned to the series and genre that he created in 1979, and he makes those two assertions to any other film obsolete going forward.

Mad Max: Fury Road is, without a doubt, high octane and incredibly brutal. And unapologetically so. The “save the cat” checklist that most scripts adhere to these days is completely thrown out the window — then it’s shot, stabbed, burned, and drowned before being dragged across a desert, and what is left is one of the best movies of the year, and a genre defining triumph for Miller and his cast.

Mad Max: Fury Road Review

Tom Hardy takes over for Mel Gibson as Max.

The post-apocalyptic landscape, which resonated more during the 1980s in the height of the cold war when the threat of nuclear war hung over all of our heads, still has meaning. It’s still a virile playground for Miller and co-writers Brendan McCarthy and Nico Lathouris to stage their story and the results are fantastic.

Mad Max: Fury Road does’t reboot the character created by Mel Gibson in 1979’s Mad Max. This is a sequel through and through, and one that doesn’t really need the previous three films (which also includes 1981’s The Road Warrior, and 1985’s Beyond Thunderdome) to understand that the world is a wasteland and Max Rockatansky is one of the few survivors left with any amount of humanity still in his war-torn heart.

Mad Max: Fury Road Review

Now that’s car audio!

Fury Road opens with Max (Tom Hardy) being captured by a group of marauding War Boys, who live to serve the tyrannical god-like Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne). Max is a universal blood donor, which makes him a valuable commodity in Joe’s desert utopia. It seems that radiation is still affecting people, and Max is used as a “blood bag” for the tumor-riddled, and slowly dying War Boy, Nux (Nicholas Hoult).

Mad Max: Fury Road Review

Nux (Nicholas Hoult) and Furiosa (Charlize Theron) traverse the Fury Road with a truck full of beautiful wives.

When Joe sends Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron) on a mission to Gas Town, across the Fury Road, she takes it upon herself to steal Joe’s greatest treasure — his harem of five beautiful wives — and escape to the mythical Green Town. Furiosa’s betrayal forces Joe to order all his War Boys to give chase. Nux is forced to bring his “blood bag” along with him, and Max becomes part of the biggest, longest, most intense car chase in cinematic history.

Mad Max: Fury Road Review

The reason for the chase: Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, Riley Keough, Zoe Kravitz, Abbey Lee, and Courtney Eaton look to escape Immortan Joe’s clutches

I can sit here and waste words describing the chase in finite detail, but this epic race across the wasteland has to be seen and heard to be fully experienced. Miller relies more on practical stunts than CG, though there are plenty of CGI elements in the film. Furiosa has a mechanical arm, and when the chase goes through a rather nasty haboob, the effects inside the dust storm are breathtaking.

Mad Max: Fury Road Review

Intense action on the Fury Road.

What makes Mad Max: Fury Road so unique is that this world is fully realized, as twisted as it is. The vehicles used in the chase are fully functioning instruments of destruction. Some cars have huge poles where War Boys dip and dawdle as they try to stop Furiosa and Joe’s wives from their escape. The counter-weights on those poles are other War Boys and it’s all working with practical science as the scenes unfold on the screen.

Mad Max: Fury Road Review

Nearly everything in Mad Max: Fury Road has practicality.

Everything in Fury Road could actually work — and may actually have worked on the set — as Miller’s attention to detail is insanely intricate. Huge hamster wheels manned by War Boy children raise and lower platforms, and Joe even has a milk maid station with well-fed nurses to produce milk for he and his family. This world is the picture of insanity and Colin Gibson’s production design is some of the best I’ve ever seen on screen.

Mad Max: Fury Road Review

Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne) will do anything to get his property back.

Probably the best part of Mad Max: Fury Road is that the chase takes center stage over the story, and Max is relegated more as a vehicle for the audience to experience it and less as the main hero. This is Furiosa’s story, and Max is just along for the ride. This works splendidly, as Max plays almost the comic foil to the death and destruction and fire going on all around. Max has been through this all before. He’s still haunted by his past failings, and that dictates his actions here, but this is Furiosa’s crusade, and the little bit of humanity left in the ex-cop Max pushes him (however reluctantly) to join the crusade.

Mad Max: Fury Road Review

This is Furiosa’s (Charlize Theron) story.

I can go on and on about the set designs and the incredible stunts. I mean, seriously, how did these actors not get seriously hurt and/or killed? In the end, Mad Max: Fury Road is a film that has to be seen to be believed. No review of the film can capture what George Miller has created on-screen, so I implore you to rush out and see it. You will not be disappointed.

Mad Max: Fury Road is rated R and is in theaters now.

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