Reviewed by Daniel Janks: actor, creative director, writer, cynic, father, husband. He was born in 1977 and has still not died. He loves many things, chief among which are his mythic wife and odd girl-child. Visit his website.
Director : George Miller
Writer: George Miller
Cast : Tom Hardy, Charlize Theron, Nicholas Hoult
AGE RESTRICTION: [R]
Look, it’s weird, and gory, and just not for kids. Hell, it’s Mad Max.
Mad Max Rockatansky is back and he seems, finally, to actually have gone mad. According to my wife this is an inexplicable movie where a bunch of bad guy freaks drive around the desert in weird cars chasing a bunch of good guy freaks in more weird cars (or in this case a truck). My response was: “I know, right? Isn’t it awesome?”
Maybe you have to be a little steeped in the Mad Max genre to appreciate the film? Maybe you have to be a bit obsessed with what the world might look like once the whole enchilada’s gone to hell in a hand basket? Maybe you have to like movies that eschew conventional notions of plot, character and form? Maybe you just have to dig movies about bad guy freaks driving around the desert in weird cars chasing a bunch of good guy freaks in more weird cars (or in this case a truck)? Hell, I don’t know why I loved the film, but I did.
Max is still living loose and wild in a world ravaged by nuclear war and populated by a human race devoid of water, plants and … well … humanity. This time he’s up against Immortal Joe, the leader of the Citadel, and his army of white-flesh, skin-head, zealots. Max might start out just trying to survive (and get his car back), but in true Max style he just can’t turn his back on a bunch of pretty ladies in need. He’s soon caught up in a ‘mad’ mission to help Imperator Furiosa take Immortal Joe’s harem of breeding-wives to ‘the green place’, despite being chased by a bunch of bad guy freaks driving around the desert in weird cars.
There’s a certain style to Miller’s films that includes a heightened, slightly hammy performance aesthetic. It works wonderfully to help create the feeling of a world gone crazy, where nothing normal can survive. Within this miasma of overacting Hardy is … interesting. He only says about two and half sentences in the whole film, and his performance is understated to the point of being almost indistinct. But within the subtlety there is magic. Amongst the chaos of the world, and the story, and the action, Hardy manages to create an island of calm and quiet. Max has always been a snowflake of normalcy, frozen around a grain of bonkers, floating in a blizzard of nutzoid, and Hardy has very delicately taken that motif and turned it into something pretty amazing to watch. It’s easy to disregard the performance as too … nothing. But look a little closer and I think he’s doing … something incredible.
The two other featured actors, Charlize Theron and Nicholas Hoult provide opposing counterpoints to Hardy’s subtlety. Hoult is flying his full George Miller colours and delivers a really good, half crazed, half delicate portrayal of a young man who’s grown up in world full of madmen. Theron, I think doesn’t crack the style. She’s too moody and sullen, too serious and melodramatic. I think it’s an easy trap to fall into with a Miller movie. His work is a unique mix of melodrama and the absurd. It must be a very wobbly line to have to tread. But I don’t think she cracked it.
Directing and writing
There are few really visionary writers and directors working in film today. There are many excellent storytellers, many powerful builders of movies, many masters of the craft. But there are precious few actual visionaries, people who have the power to envision a world, and bring it life. George Miller is one. His original trilogy, which depicts a world slowly and steadily sliding into madness and ruin, are masterpieces of transportive storytelling. In Fury Road he takes us back to the same world, now treated with modern film-making technology and even more engrossing because of it. The slow and inexorable decay of the land, and the people who still cling to it, which started in Mad Max and continued in The Road Warrior and Beyond Thunderdome, is taken yet further in Fury Road. Will there be a fifth instalment? Hard to say, because it’s difficult to see how either the planet, or its people could fall any further.
As my wife is all to quick to point out, this film is not for everyone. But if you’re a Max fan, if you’re an action fan, if you’re a post-apocalypse fan, then see it. It’s a brilliant art-house mega-action film.
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