17th May 2015

Mad Max: Fury Road (Running Time: 120 Minutes)

Thirty years! That’s how long it’s been since Max Rockatansky (obviously vying for the ‘dopiest hero name in cinema history’ award) has graced our cinema screens. Thankfully the years have been kind and, despite Max being a veteran action movie character, he displays no sign of wanting to settle in for an afternoon on the sofa with The Guardian crossword and The Archers.

For those unaware of director George Miller’s most famous creation, the story is pretty simple, paper-thin in fact; a near-future apocalypse has sent man back to a semi-primitive existence. Fuel and water are the most precious commodities on the planet and, as the remaining citizens of our doomed planet scramble for existence, one man (guess who) has decided to bring some sense of morality back to this crazy world.

And the world in question IS crazy with a capital ‘c’. The film starts with our titular hero having a rare moment of reflection. Haunted by visions of his past (which act as a quick way to get the audience up to speed with the previous films), Max contemplates his next move but before he gets a chance to make a decision about his future, the quiet is interrupted by the roar of engines and he soon finds himself on the run from lethal bandits called The War Boys.

Max is imprisoned but quickly spots an opportunity for freedom when his captors are distracted - a War Boys lieutenant named Furiosa (played by Charlize Theron) has gone rogue in a huge juggernaut with the bandit leader’s prize women. Max finds a way to steal his way on board the stolen truck and together with his new compatriot they must out run the rest of the crazed bandits in a desperate race for survival.

From around half an hour into the film, a road chase begins which rarely lets up for the remaining running time. The chaos and carnage is visceral and intense but thankfully, due to its constant creativity and inventiveness, rarely gets repetitive or exhausting for the audience. If you were looking for a film which touches on deep emotional themes or introspective analysis, you may wish to continue your search. This is pure adrenaline with a gallon of nitrous oxide and gasoline thrown in. The director has obviously been living on a diet of Red Bull and sugar lumps for the last thirty years.

There is, perhaps, a downside to the all-encompassing action scenes in that the characters themselves often play second-fiddle to the set pieces. Though the visuals are simply stunning and the action well-paced, it would’ve been nice to get to know a little more about our protagonists, the various bandit groups and the world in which they exist. But perhaps this was the director’s point – the characters are expendable, they’re simply the means to an end –the vehicle which propels the audience through this nightmarish vision of the future.

Mel Gibson made the role his own back in the late Seventies and Eighties but has been replaced this time around by Tom Hardy - a wonderful actor in his own right. Perhaps the reasons for doing this are simply down to Gibson’s age – there is a physical aspect to the role and maybe it’s too much to ask that 59 year old Mel hangs underneath a moving vehicle these days. A part of me misses Mel and still thinks he could’ve continued in this franchise however, Tom Hardy plays the role with added subtlety which is admirable but sometimes means that he simply vanishes into the background noise from time to time.

As with previous films in the franchise, Max is more of a passive bystander who threads through the story rather than leading the way. He is often simply in the wrong place at the wrong time and usually remains passive amongst the chaos until provoked. Once he is provoked, however, you should probably try to be a few miles away because things are going to get messy.

In many ways this is Theron’s film. Furiosa’s story arc is stronger than Max’s and has a clear resolution to it whereas Max is essentially a passenger, involved in the events only due to circumstance. Max is also mostly monosyllabic and so it is down to Furiosa to give the audience an emotional connection to these characters and their plight.

Theron is excellent and manages to convey much with the little dialogue she has – much like Sigourney Weaver’s Ripley in the Alien franchise, she’s strong, independent and driven yet adds just enough vulnerability into the mix to make her human.

This is a spectacular looking film with a bombastic soundtrack and it certainly feels unique amongst the rest of the big budget blockbuster movies. Though it might benefit from a less lightweight plot, the film feels like the director’s uncompromised vision. This chaotic, darkly comic, ultra-violent mad, mad world is exactly how Miller (and Max) want it to be. Sit back, make sure your seatbelt is securely fastened and prepare for a ride through the apocalypse!

Written by Smylexx