Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)

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Directed by George Miller
Written by Nick Lathouris and George Miller

Rated R

Charlize Theron as Imperator Furiosa
Tom Hardy as Max Rockatansky
Nicholas Hoult as Nux
Rose Huntington-Whiteley as Splendid
Zoƫ Kravitz as Toast the Knowing
Riley Keough as Capable
Nathan Jones as Rictus Erectus

George Miller reinvigorates the Mad Max franchise with this brilliantly filmed, pulse-pounding thriller.

Post-apocalyptic movies have seen an increase in quality of late, especially with last year’s smashing Snowpiercer, one of the best films of 2014. Now, there’s another contender for the best of 2015 list. Fury Road commands breathless attention from the first moment to the last. Miller is at the top of his form here, and it’s exhilarating to see this commitment after Miller’s recent, family-friendly sabbatical from the action genre. He made the Oscar-winning Happy Feet and it’s sequel, along with the underrated gem Babe: Pig in the City.

Tom Hardy (Warrior, The Dark Knight Rises) deftly steps into Mel Gibson’s able shoes as Max, whose “world is fire.” He is tormented by visions of his lost family, and he’s a man of few words. Max’s world is a post-apocalyptic wasteland, an infinite desert where hopelessness never looked so bleak. He crosses paths with Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron), who is now a renegade warrior against the sadistic and grotesque Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne, who played Toecutter in the original Mad Max), a maniacal ruler keeping the common folk in line with his totalitarian-esque actions (think the class system on the train in Snowpiercer).

Furiosa’s “gone rogue” status is an effort to save the young “breeders” from Joe; they are young woman he has abducted in an effort to create a male heir. We get the plot details quickly, as the action explodes (and never lets up). But credit goes to Miller for creating this roller-coaster of thrills and shocks, while eliciting a smoking lead performance from Theron. She’s no stranger to this genre (Prometheus), and Theron is at home here, perhaps like never before. Her Furiosa is her best performance since scoring a Best Actress Oscar for 2003’s Monster, and she’s on the short list for another Best Actress nomination (think Sigourney Weaver in Aliens).

Joe and his goons abduct Max, and he is used as a blood bank. After a taut, tension-infused chase, Max soon escapes. The chase scenes are the backdrop and backbone of the film, leading to one gripping scene after another. Max’s escape is capped by his encounter with Furiosa and the breeders, and they soon develop a mutual understanding. Joe’s war boys, lead by Nux (Nicholas Hoult, superb) are in close pursuit of the renegades, while Max finds strength in Furiosa’s resolve, our heads spin as they tackle blood-soaked obstacles from all sides.

It’s a daring risk to flip the once testosterone-fueled franchise to a feminist slant, but the result is incredibly effective. Furiosa is seeking redemption, and Max’s quest to assist her is realistic and moving. Hardy and Theron have amazing chemistry, but it’s Theron captivating, and yours eyes won’t leave her.

You can hear Furiosa’s heart (and soul) beating almost as loudly as the intoxicating music from Junkie XL. (Let’s just give him the Original Score Oscar now. ) Miller brings to vivid life what a first-rate action movie should be: endlessly entertaining and thought-provoking. We see the dystopian madness from Furiosa’s point of view, and it’s with this acknowledgement we see Miller’s method. Is woman the answer to the chaos and destruction by man, hobbled by ego and thirst for power? Shakespeare charted this territory eons ago when Cordelia became King Lear’s conscience … and ultimately his redemption. Yes, Miller’s updated view of a twisted dystopian existence considers these philosophies, finally addressing what’s been missing for so long. The male ego goes in circles, but the feminine and maternal objective to survive and find resolve is a revolutionary (though certainly not new) concept.

Miller’s Mad Max: Fury Road assumes the viewer is intelligent and adept for a new kind of action picture. Never less than thrilling and absorbing, this epic summer blockbuster is a bloody triumph.

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