After taking a three decade hiatus, Mad Max is back and he’s still providing one hell of a ride – but to the surprise (and even anger) of some, Fury Road makes him take a backseat for the majority of the trip.
Following a nuclear holocaust, the world has become a desert wasteland and civilization has collapsed. Max Rockatansky (Tom Hardy), a survivor, is captured by the War Boys, the army of the tyrannical Immortan Joe, (Hugh Keays-Byrne) and taken to Joe’s Citadel. Designated a universal blood donor, Max is imprisoned and used as a “blood bag” for the sick War Boy Nux (Nicholas Hoult). Meanwhile, Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron), one of Joe’s lieutenants, is sent in her armored truck to collect gasoline. When she drives off-route, Joe realizes that his five wives — women selected for breeding — are missing. Joe leads his entire army in pursuit of Furiosa, calling on the aid of nearby Gas Town and the Bullet Farm.
Making its intentions known from the opening frame, Mad Max doesn’t even begin to stretch before its 2 hour sprint. It’s a film of minimal plot, most of which is revealed in the first 20 minutes or so. In fact, the narrative comes across as more of an annoyance that gets in the way of Miller’s desire to exhibit nothing but exhilarating action set pieces. When they do come though (and there’s a lot of them) they really are incredible.
Opting to favour practical effects over CGI, Miller’s directing of the sequences is sublime. Using over 150 stunt performers, including members of Cirque Du Soleil and Olympic athletes, Miller’s gamble to use real people adds much more tension and drama to the hectic chases. Admittedly some of these scenes do seem to drag along a little too long, but the alternative is hokey and creaky dialogue that attempts to further an already non-existent plot, so I can’t complain too much.
Like I insinuated above, Max isn’t the real star of Fury Road – that honour goes to Theron’s battle-hardened Furiosa. Frequently pushing her way to the front of the battle, Furiosa is the most dominant female character in recent memory. Hardy’s Max isn’t entirely exempt from action though, with him being instrumental in most of the chase scenes. A returning Hugh Keays-Byrne, who starred in the original Mad Max, impresses as the villainous Immortan Joe, although a little more screen time wouldn’t have gone amiss.
The phrase ‘action packed’ is thrown around a lot these days, but in the case of Fury Road it’s the only fitting description. The character of Max isn’t as fully developed or realised as it could be, but the breathtaking chase scenes and a crushing performance from Theron more than makes up for it.