‘Mad Max’ fueled by artistry

In a wasteland of uninspired blockbusters, driven by CGI and unnecessarily complex plot lines, Mad Max: Fury Road gives us hope for the future of action cinema.

Mad Max: Fury Road is the first entry in the Mad Max franchise since 1985. This stand-alone sequel finds the mastermind behind the originals, 70 year old George Miller, returning to the director’s chair. Tom Hardy replaces Mel Gibson as the grizzled road warrior, Max Rockatansky, as he finds himself in the middle of an over-the-top, explosive car chase across the treacherous “Fury Road.” Although Max is a titular character, the story is driven (quite literally) by Charlize Theron’s character, Imperator Furiosa. Furiosa is a highly trusted official within a post-apocalyptic dystopia. When she betrays its dictator — Immortan Joe — by attempting to transport his slave-wives to safety, an entire army of weaponized muscle cars is set after her. From there the chase begins, and Max is along for the ride.

As soon as the film starts the lightning fast pace is set, and it is kept for nearly the entire film. There are some moments of down time, allowing the audience to catch its breath, but the majority of the film is comprised of masterfully choreographed action scenes which put nearly every action film of the past decade to shame. Miller did not rely on CGI to create such a spectacle, as virtually every car-flip and explosion was done with practical effects. Meaning they actually had a convoy of super-modified cars barrelling through the desert; no green screen required. Because of this, every time a ridiculous stunt happens you won’t think to yourself “that was fake”, you’ll think “holy sh*t, that was awesome”.

After watching this movie, I don’t know if I’ll be able to go back to the bland CGI-fest that modern action movies have become (looking at you, Age of Ultron). Going further against the trends in action cinema these days, every scene is wonderfully shot and there is no “shaky-cam” to be found. The use of color in the film makes every shot a treat to look at, and the wildly imaginative props and sets only add to the immersion. It truly is Miller’s dedication to this film, and the world he’s created, that makes it succeed. The film had been in production hell since the early 2000’s, everything from the 9/11 attacks to Heath Ledger’s death postponed the film’s production, but with all that time Miller was able to fine-tune every last detail of the film.

Everything you see on screen, every line of dialogue, every insane stunt, was placed there with precise intention. There are many small things within the film that have little-to-no explanation, but their lack of explanation is what makes this world feel so tangible and interesting.

Hardy’s Max is a man of few words, but what he does say in his mumbled Australian accent is very revealing of his character. He is haunted by something from his past, and his only instinct is survival. One of the few complaints that could be made of this movie is that Max does not have as much development as you would expect from a title character, but with everything else that’s going on in the film you’ll find that it isn’t needed. Furiosa provides enough character development through her heartbreaking story arc alone, not to mention the plethora of well-developed side characters who help bring this world to life. The humanity of these characters is what gives the action meaning and creates the tension which is constant throughout the film.

The film has much more to say thematically than you would expect from a film in this genre. It touches on everything from religion to insanity, with a healthy dose of social commentary to boot. It also does a great job of letting women do some of the ass-kicking for a change. There are many female characters in the film who would typically be set aside as love interests, but the film does its best to avoid clichés and manages to make them all strong, interesting characters.

It’s hard to find criticisms for this film, because it really does deliver in almost every way. There may be a performance or two that could have been better, some moments of narrative progression were rushed, and the few shots that did require CGI were somewhat noticeable — especially one shot which was clearly catering to the 3D audience. But to put it simply, this is one of the best action films I have ever seen, and possibly one of the best ever made. Go see this film, and then go see it again.

I give the film an A+.


Movie poster for Mad Max: Fury Road starring Tom Hardy and Charlize Theron from IMDB.

Story by: James Freeman

James Freeman