As the car engines roared and rumbled throughout the two hour run-time of the movie, it was George Miller’s voice that resonated as he very loudly and very clearly taught the world how action is truly executed. Three decades after the last Mad Max installment and two after the failed revival during the late 90s, the franchise is finally up and running, louder and more beautiful than ever.
Mad Max: Fury Road ventures once more into the unforgiving desert of the Wasteland. The film opens up with an introduction to Max (Tom Hardy), whose past regrets have left him with no goals but his own survival, as he struggles against the War Boys of Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne, back from the first Mad Max). Soon after, the movie shifts to its second protagonist, Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron), a rig driver working for Joe, as she decides to execute her own plans.
Fury Road is the impossible made possible. It’s George Miller setting the bar incredibly high for every action movie ever made and ever will be made. Throughout his long and many car chases, Miller delivers the most gorgeously choreographed action sequences Hollywood has witnessed to date, scenes that end up forming a rhythmic ensemble that transcends the customary clichés to play a two-hour long symphony that seizes the audience’s breath and barely pauses to catch its own.
Miller and his cinematographer, John Seale, shot the film in such style that every frame is a piece of art to look at and admire. And, as his characters got more and more involved in the horribly beautiful Wasteland, Miller got more and more vivid in his portrayal of the picturesque dying world he created. He also intentionally made it obvious when digital touch-ups were applied, as means to show the contrast between what’s real and what’s not, because, to a certain degree, Miller has always believed humans were actually killing the planet.
The fantastic camera work is directly accompanied by an extraordinary soundtrack that adds even more panache to Miller’s post-apocalyptic epic. Junkie XL does an admirable job composing the soundtrack, and he gets an extra nod for integrating Yuri Terminakov’s absolutely wonderful Dies Irae.
But it wasn’t just Miller’s fine taste that made Fury Road what it is, it was also his imagination. In the vast desert of the Wasteland, Miller created a world that would otherwise only exist in the pages of a comic book. It’s the location names like Gas Town and Bullet Farm that give the world of Mad Max the juice to be exactly what it needs to be. And with over-the-top characters like one named Rictus Erectus, Miller breathes life into a charming world full of details and lore material.
What Miller’s vision and his technical crew began is finally completed by the people in front of the camera. The unique and ever-likeable Tom Hardy is the perfect replacement for Mel Gibson as the laconic Max. Additionally, Charlize Theron and, especially, Nicholas Hoult deliver performances so good they own almost all the scenes they’re in. The rest of the cast, like Hugh Keays-Byrne and Rosie Huntington-Whitely, provide the supporting performances the stars deserve, earning the movie a medal for a downright outstanding ensemble and their theatrical, more than cinematic, performances.
And because Fury Road associates theatrical performances to clear images of death, it becomes as poetic as it is artistic. For when a movie blends comic book absurdness with theater exaggeration, something beautiful is born, something that sees a War Boy sing and scream as he drives a spiked-up car into an even bigger spiked up truck resulting in his imminent and explosive death. “Witness him”, his fellows would shout, for the doors of Valhalla have opened for him.
That – and the mentions of Valhalla – is exactly what gives Fury Road its poetic approach, in all its vicious glory. The film proves to not only be visuals and action, but a reflection on Man’s own mortality. The death of the world itself, that of the War Boys and every other character that died throughout the movie asks the clear question of who they are and what they’re here for. Questions even Max does not know the answers to.
George Miller caught the world by surprise. From his cult favorite Mad Max films, he returned to craft a masterpiece. By creating gorgeously choreographed action and a world like none other, he set new – and very high – standards for both action flicks and movie franchises.
Fury Road is truly captivating in all its aspects, and is definitely a grand cinematic achievement that will prove to be an instant classic.