What To Watch: The Beautiful Chaos of ‘Mad Max: Fury Road’ (2015)
You can't go wrong with this spectacular action thriller starring Tom Hardy.
Mad Max: Fury Road is a 2015 action thriller about a woman who rebels against a tyrannical ruler in post-apocalyptic Australia in search for her home-land with the help of a group of female prisoners, a psychotic worshipper, and a drifter named Max.
It’s quite a thing to have an expectation met … but to have it utterly surpassed and then some is a rare treat, especially in movies where innovation is, let’s be honest, itself pretty sporadic. So it was back a few years ago when seemingly out of nowhere, while blockbusters were churning out CGI-heavy, factory films, a 70-year-old man decided to rewrite the book and show everyone else how to make a real action movie. It’s Mad Max: Fury Road. Let’s take a look.
THE STORY: The fourth in the very long running series, Mad Max: Fury Road is far less about the titular character and much more about the women, all who take center stage in this female-empowering story. It takes place long after a nuclear holocaust has turned the world to mostly dust and we meet Max Rockatansky (Tom Hardy), a lone survivalist who gets captured by Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne), the megalomaniacal dictator of a massive cult of followers, he controlling a huge supply of water. Max is forced to become a ‘blood bag’ donor for one of Joe’s War Boys, a spastic driver named Nux (Nicholas Hoult). But when Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron), one of Joe’s trusted lieutenants runs off with his harem of 5 beautiful young women in an armored semi-truck, Joe sends his boys to give chase, including Nux and Max. To say more would be to spoil the whole show.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR: Nearly twenty years in the making, the film met with a number of setbacks from Miller’s reacquiring of the rights and his concepts for a film back in the mid-1990s to casting, production and filming a couple decades later. Movies were undergoing a monumental shift in those years where computer-generated visual effects became increasingly dominant, having movies created in highly controlled green screen studios. Miller had other ideas, coming from a background of practical effects and committed himself to doing so with Fury Road, later claiming that 90 percent of the what’s seen on screen is real (the movie does employ CGI for weather and time of day and other areas, though very little in the actual vehicular sequences). The action is astounding and even breathtaking for its astonishing visuals.
That said, it’s the story that really pulls this together with the dynamic between Furiosa and Max at the heart of the story. You gotta give Miller credit for putting a character’s name in the title of the movie and then putting the focus on someone else, yet somehow he makes it work, so well in fact, the movie is considered by many to be her story rather than his. Either way, Theron is terrific and she makes Fury Road all her own.
READ MORE: That Moment In Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome
A GREAT MOMENT: Well, the movie is just about one continuous great moment with nearly all of the film one giant car chase, albeit one with many cars and trucks, and there are some truly spectacular moments of vehicular mayhem throughout. Because of that, there are a few that are best left undescribed for any who have yet to watch so with that in mind, it’s probably better to just say that the battles for Furiosa’s truck make for some jaw-dropping moments.
Miller and legendary Academy Award winning cinematographer John Seale, who was 72 at the time and actually came out of retirement (and was nominated again for this), give these chase sequences incredible momentum and a kind of surreal beauty that is impossible to look away from. It’s total madness with stunt work that has you constantly asking yourself, “how did they do that?” Seriously. When the poles come out and the whole thing becomes a maniacal horror circus on wheels, it’s mind-bending.
THE TALLY: Widely considered as one of the greatest action films of all time, Fury Road is a magnificent achievement and one to be studied. Well beyond pure escapist entertainment, it’s loaded with themes that separate this far from so many others, inciting careful examination of both the larger story of vengeance and the more subtle threads of feminism and matriarchal authority. It’s what to watch.