Film Review – Mad Max: Fury Road

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JCNN’s resident reviewer takes on Mad Max: Fury Road.

 By Nick Palmisano

“Where must we go, we who wander this wasteland in search of our better selves?” – First History Man

Sitting in the aftermath of Mad Max: Fury Road, it’s hard to recalibrate your senses after such a visceral viewing experience. I’ve seen the film three times now, and each time I am left in awe of George Miller’s directorial achievement.

Fury Road might be considered a re-imagining, or spiritual successor of the Mad Max universe, which began in 1979 with Mad Max, the cult classic Australian post-apocalyptic film, a seminal work which went on to influence the post-apocalyptic genre in many other mediums.

In the original film, Mel Gibson’s Max Rockatansky is a cop in a future Australia where life is decaying; shortages of critical resources push the world to the brink. A biker gang murders his wife and child, and Max takes bitter revenge. Without a reason for being, he wanders the desert ceaselessly, searching for redemption and the home that was taken.

THE ORIGINAL: Mel Gibson starred as Mad Max in Miller’s original trilogy, ending with Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome. CREDIT:  DigitalSpy

THE ORIGINAL: Mel Gibson starred as Mad Max in Miller’s original trilogy, ending with Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome. CREDIT: DigitalSpy

Fury Road’s Max is perhaps a lot darker than Gibson’s portrayal. Tom Hardy does an excellent job in this regard, coming off as brooding, and possibly psychotic. Suffering from hallucinations and vivid flashbacks of loved ones he could not save, Max tears through the wasteland in his V8 interceptor, the iconic vehicle from the first two Mad Max movies. I won’t reveal too much, because I would urge you to see the film for yourself, but safe to say, Max gets caught up in the struggle of certified badass Furiosa (Charlize Theron), in her attempt to smuggle a group of young women imprisoned by Machiavellian warlord Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne) to safety.

What follows is essentially a two hour vehicular chase sequence with a rewarding amount of character depth and emotion, not to mention a smorgasbord of explosions, gunfire, and practical effects. Every single car was constructed for the film, and according to Miller 80% of the effects are real.

NEW BLOOD: Tom Hardy’s Max is feral, dangerous, and very, very tetchy. CREDIT:  DigitalSpy

NEW BLOOD: Tom Hardy’s Max is feral, dangerous, and very, very tetchy. CREDIT: DigitalSpy

While there are a few ‘you should be watching this in 3D’ moments, the fidelity of the film is breath-taking. Not a single shot feels out of a place, nor a single word of dialogue wasted. Make no mistake, this is a big budget Hollywood action film running on $150 million, but with Miller at the helm it’s as lean as can be, almost indie. Perhaps this is what is so refreshing, and invigorating. You just don’t see films like Fury Road every day. The argument that using CGI would be cheaper probably goes down well with studios looking for high return on low investment, but Fury Road does it old school, pouring the massive dollars into hundreds of stuntmen, real cars, real crashes, and real explosions.

It pays off in the end; Mad Max Fury Road is a visual eye-gasm, charged on high-octane crazy stunts, clever, even poignant direction, and an ensemble Australian cast wielding lean, mean dialogue. Namibia replaces Australia as the filming locale, but the vast expanse translates well to the universality of the wasteland, bringing it out of Australia and into the global stage. Tom Hardy might not be Australian, but I would happily line up another three times to watch him go mad, as long as Miller’s holding the leash.