Much like the film’s nitrous-fuelled death cars, Mad Max: Fury Road stomps furiously on the accelerator from the moment the theatre lights dim, and refuses to release the throttle until the pandemic madness has infected every single molecule of your body. It’s that infectious.
George Miller’s triumphant return to the genre and mythos that he created and popularised 30 years previously, is an adrenaline shot straight into the audience’s eyeballs. What is essentially one giant hellacious race scene, Mad Max: Fury Road provides only fleeting and temporal moments of relief for audiences before the next hellacious stage of the death chase kicks off.
Reinvigorated for a modern audience, while warmly embracing its existing fan base, Max returns to a post-apocalyptic, sun-scorched Australian desert (filmed in Namibia). Gone is Mel Gibson; he’s been replaced by the brusque and more stoic Tom Hardy. But he’s not the only road warrior this time out. Equally the reluctant-hero is Furiosa played by Charlize Theron, who is here to remind everyone that she still has the acting chops and gravitas of a kick-ass leading lady. Hardy and Theron share the screen as dual protagonists, with only a modicum of dialogue between the two. The majority of the exposition is divided between the supporting cast, many of whom are suitably deranged and maniacal (a suspension-roped, flame-throwing guitarist was my personal favourite). An unrecognisable Nicholas Hoult steals the show on many occasions with his nutty commitment to the sickly warboy Nux.
The bulk of the story centres on Max and Furiosa allying together in an effort to rescue a group of wives/breeders from their tyrannical former captor, Immortan Joe (a returning Hugh Keays-Byrne).
It’s one hell of a hyperactive thrill ride and a masterful slice of genre filmmaking, but thankfully it’s also much more than daring big budget extravagancy. This is not a cheap Hollywood remake cashing in on a pre-established franchise. This is George Miller angrily exploding back onto the screen with something worthy to say.
Co-writers Miller and Brendan McCarthy have imbued their script with plenty of timely references to contemporary society that provide weight to the spectacular stunts and explosions on display. Behind the over-the-top antics and amplified insanity of their characters, the film cleverly comments on the systematic brainwashing of young men to commit acts of terrorism and the rampant misogyny that somehow still exists in our modern times.
A Trojan-horse of sorts, the fourth instalment of the franchise is in actuality a feminist actioner masquerading as a conventional thrills and spills blockbuster. Marooned in a merciless wasteland, where humanity seems perverted beyond all measure, the film’s vision of hope comes from Theron’s wounded Valkyrie Furiosa. Hell bent on delivering these tortured women to safety, Furiosa understands the enormity of her task. Ensuring these young, fertile women their freedom permanently is the human race’s only hope of survival. The next generation must be given a chance.
Strong and necessary messages aside, the film doesn’t lose itself in making its meaning heard. The production design is vibrantly imagined and executed. The outrageous sets, cars and costumes provide endless joy as each element is revealed throughout the 120-minute run time. You can picture George Miller gleefully sitting down and conceiving these images with his team. The meticulous planning and creative process over the past decade has been well worth the wait.
The film is simply gorgeous and intoxicating to set your eyes upon as well. Shot by Australian cinematographer John Seale, the landscapes and vistas are as breathtakingly captured as the practical stunts are brutal, frenetic and intricately violent. Everyone should be injured from this shoot. These stunts rival and best anything we’ve seen from recent action films (including the last three Fast and Furious entries).
Aided by a resounding percussive soundtrack, Mad Max: Fury Road is exhilarating and pure unadulterated mayhem. A puissant drug that will force many an audience member into fits of cinematic ecstasy. Hardcore addiction and repeat trips to movie rehab are guaranteed.