Let’s get it out of the way. The plot is thin. There isn’t much of a story. Dialogue is almost minimal but what little there is speaks volume in conveying the world and situation at hand. It’s a mere five minutes of exposition to explain the events within the first half or so, and another two minutes to set up the last third. The rest is glorious in its own way.
From the second movie to this, “Mad” Max Rockatansky is merely the MacGuffin around which the mayhem occurs. He happens upon a situation and ultimately, even inadvertently, becomes instrumental in the survival of the ones he’s helping, thwarting the bad guys a big one in the process. It usually involves a massive chase. In this case, Max (Tom Hardy, taking over from Mel Gibson who last had the role thirty years ago) ends up with the Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron, magnificent) as she attempt to help the five brides (Zoe Kravitz, Rosie Huntington Whiteley, Riley Keough, Courtney Eaton, Abbey Lee) escape from Immortal Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne). That’s about it.
Tom Hardy easily steps into the desert wasteland left behind by the original Max, Mel Gibson, bringing new life to the character. It’s a physically demanding and quite a non-showboating role, but Hardy manages to let Max’s diminished humanity shine at choice moments, reminding us of the man he used to be. The succinct dialogue and gruff delivery is retained and one would be hard pressed to find differences between the two actors in their portrayal or delivery. The raw energy Gibson had decades ago is here in Hardy.
Veteran Mad Max star, Hugh Keays-Byrne (Toecutter in the first movie) returns to the franchise as Immortal Joe and still manages to deliver a chilling performance while masked for a good portion of the movie, giving us a nemesis who is very much a force of nature. Nicholas Hoult brings insane life to Nux, a War Boy raised into the cult of Immortal Joe. There’s a religious fervour to Nux’s ramblings which shows the control Joe has over the survivors that follow and worship him. Grounding the movie’s incredible mayhem is Charlize Theron, whose Imperator Furiosa sees herself on a journey of redemption. Theron and Hardy make a fantastic double act that raises the empathy for both characters. In a world where death and destruction are the norm, violence a way of life, these two give basic humanity to the proceedings and elevates the movie even more.
Director George Miller does more than just resurrect Max. He does what every other action director he’s inspired and injects high-octane into the format while delivering a lesson on how it’s done. Mad Max 2 (The Road Warrior) inspired many a post-apocalyptic action flick and insane car chases blazing across the silver screen, each often raising the stakes and quite often relying on CGI and rapid fire editing for flash (see the films of Michael Bay, or even The Fast and The Furious franchise). For Fury Road, Miller goes very old school, relying on precision stunt work and practical effect for the vehicular mayhem, sparingly using the CGI for mostly landscaping and Furiosa’s prosthetic arm.
In that, Fury Road is gorgeous with a design aesthetic that is sublime to look at. The post-apocalyptic wasteland has never looked so beautiful in its sparseness with somehow complimentary splashes of colour. The vehiclar designs are amazing from the mishmash of metal and chrome buggys, insane monster trucks, the hero tanker, to the soundtrack pumping “Band Wagon” with its Drum section and flame spewing electric guitar riffing player performing in front of a sick speaker system. Even the costume designs, from Max’s typical garb and leather jacket to Immortal Joe’s body suit and even each of the bride’s trappings to reflect their individual personalities – and how splendid is Huntington-Whiteley’s pregnant bride, The Splendid Angharad?
Unconventional, bold, daring and insanely entertaining, Mad Max: Fury Road is throwback action film that somehow schools the modern films on how it’s done. A lot of ‘show’ and very little ‘tell’ as action movies should be, and still somehow retaining a sliver of a plot to carry the characters with a mission that you can care about and root for. The few dramatic scenes flesh out the characters with simple precision, injecting the empathy for their cause. The practical stunts and effects allow for a visceral experience away from the gloss of computer effects. This is eye-candy on a grand scale that does not pander to the audience. And more power to it for that.
Now, let’s see if other movies have learnt any lessons here.
Stars: Tom Hardy, Charlize Theron, Nicholas Hoult, Hugh Keays-Byrne, Nathan Jones, Zoe Kravitz, Rosie Huntington Whiteley, Riley Keough, Courtney Eaton, Abbey Lee with Melissa Jaffer
Directed by: George Miller
Original post can be found here.
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