Cinematic Releases: Mad Max Fury Road - Guaranteed Spoiler Free Review

Max Rockatansky returns in a blistering assault on the senses. 

"This was not how I planned
on spending the armageddon."
Today is a lovely day indeed, because Mad Max is back--kicking ass and taking names. The last installment of the franchise was Beyond Thunderdome, which was made in 1985. That’s a long hiatus for a series to take, but George Miller (director for all four films) hasn’t lost one single iota of his skill or vision for the post-apocalyptic universe that Max inhabits. The main worry from fans was the recasting of Max from Mel Gibson to Tom Hardy. I’m here to assuage your fears and tell you that Hardy is definitely a worthy successor to the Max moniker. Although he channels Gibson’s performance quite well, Hardy brings his own intensity and passion to the role. As a man of few words and many actions, he is oddly not entirely the focus of the film. 

His screen time is shared with Charlize Theron as Imperator Furiosa, a bad-ass doom car driver with a mission all her own. Theron absolutely owns this role, and is one of the most intimidating female protagonists portrayed in an action film. Nothing escapes her penetrating blue gaze, which is made all the more menacing with black war-paint covering the top half of her face. This is how you write a damn female character. It’s not patronizing or shoehorned in as an afterthought. The women in this movie embody all the different facets of being a female—some are soft and fragile and others are tough and gnarly. What unites them is the all-consuming need to survive and each of them does what they have to do to ensure that outcome. It’s feminism done the right way, not overtly, but just by portraying them as real people and not tropes. Bravo, Miller.

"I could swear there used to be
a Taco Bell on this corner. Oh well,
White Castle it is."
However, this is a much deeper layer of the film. On the surface, Fury Road is an action film, and goddamn is there a whole lot of action. The driving sequences are unequivocally some of the coolest and blood-pumping scenes ever filmed. This is completely without hyperbole, you will be on the edge of your seat while watching every single minute. What makes these parts so successful is the combination of practical effects and stunts with slight amounts of CGI enhancements. CGI should be the frosting on the cake, not be the entire cake. There is a certain weight, a gravity, if you will, to real life stunt work that cannot be replicated with full CGI (at least at this time). Miller gets this and pumps each part of the action scenes with amazing stunts, pyrotechnics and car crashes--more than your brain can process. It’s not just mayhem though, each camera movement is focused, creating a cacophony of gorgeous destruction and whirling dust. The action has an interesting pace to it, as Miller sometimes uses frame-dropping to make it seem more frantic. This isn’t used as much in modern filmmaking, as it is a hold-over from his work in the 1980s. There is not a lot of gratuitous slow motion or speed ramping either, which is refreshing, since movies have been abusing that since The Matrix came out.

The cinematography is outstanding—the film is divided into separate parts via color and tone. This keeps the audience from getting bored and brings a fresh perspective to every action scene. Even a whole bunch of eye-melting action can get monotonous with nothing to break it up. What I found most interesting was that though this film has minimal dialogue, Miller was able to convey character motivations and feelings very clearly. The quiet scenes are few and far between, but even with that limited amount of time, this movie actually makes you care about what happens to these people. That’s no small feat, as I have watched two hour long movies that focused entirely on the characters and still didn’t give a shit about them at the end. There’s wry humor scattered all over the place too, with the silly/awesome kind of stuff that Miller is known for.

"Ok, Charlize. Stop asking about
Mel Gibson cameos
already. Deal?"
Rounding out this magnificent film is a bombastic and rousing musical score by Junkie XL. His name might be silly, but his music sure isn't. The music during the chase scenes has a constant drum beat that keeps the action going and the adrenaline pumping. It’s mixed with some ‘80s style rock guitar, but occasionally is punctuated by a sweeping and poignant orchestral score at just the right moments.  There is also an interactive element to the music that is performed by a character in the film—you will know when you see it (and it’s awesome).

Mad Max: Fury Road is the natural progression for the series to take--it’s the culmination of all the ideas that Miller has had over the years. It combines the stark, acid-western feel of Mad Max, the dynamic car chases and action sequences from The Road Warrior and tempers it with the insane over-the-top humor of Beyond Thunderdome. I honestly think this was the film Miller always wanted to make but didn’t have to means to accomplish.

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10 out of 10 -Michelle Kisner