To say the unbearably long wait for George Miller’s fourth instalment in the post-apocalyptic franchise that made his name was worth it would be the mother of all understatements.
Initial grumblings over the two-hour running time and the somewhat unclear motivations of certain characters largely evaporated to dust (save for the sudden switch in allegiance by Nicholas Hoult’s Nux) following a hugely rewarding second viewing of Mad Max: Fury Road.
The genius of Miller’s decades-in-the-making follow-up to his initial trilogy is that it is both sublimely simple in its narrative thrust and also a complex, world-expanding work of real cinematic vision that has ideas coming out of its tailpipe.
It’s also the most brilliantly accomplished action film since The Raid 2: Berandal and a dizzingly demented piece of moviemaking that throws caution, and everything else for that matter, to the wind.
While Mel Gibson’s leather-jacketed lead dominated the action of Miller’s first three Mad Max pictures, Tom Hardy’s eponymous survivor often plays second fiddle to Fury Road‘s real star, Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron), a trusted driver for the tyrannical Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne).
Furiosa brings the full weight of Joe’s wrath down on her when he discovers she’s smuggled his breeding ‘wives’ out of the Citadel. Meanwhile, Max, who has been captured by Joe’s War Boys and used as a ‘blood bag’ for the sickly Nux, works to free himself and do what he can to survive.
It’s difficult to talk about Mad Max: Fury Road without first referencing the quite incredible action scenes. The fact that everyone is in some sort of vehicle, be it Furiosa’s bad ass War Rig, Joe’s outlandish monster truck or the multitude of pursuit vehicles that look like they’ve been chop-shopped to hell, naturally provides a pulse-quickening kineticism that is well served by Junkie XL’s Hans Zimmer-inspired score.
The first major action set piece that culminates in our leads driving headlong into an apocalyptic sand storm would normally be the dazzling denouement of most movies of this ilk, but that is merely the appetizer here for what is a banquet of senses-shattering craziness.
Miller continues to up the ante, throwing in chainsaws, spear bombs and a host of other weaponry until it gets to the point when Joe’s polecats (guys perched on the end of giant, bendy sticks that are somehow clamped to souped-up vehicles) are flying in from left and right trying to take out Max and co or steal the wives back from inside the War Rig. Words barely do it justice, which also might explain why dialogue is at a premium – when action is this compulsive who the hell needs talking?
Hardy once again lets his physicality do the talking in a role where more is said by his haunted, unsettling eyes and fists than his mouth ever could. His Max is searching for redemption as desperately as Furiosa, a character brought vividly to life by Theron in a performance that’s as feral as it is fascinating.
There’s so much more to be said about Mad Max: Fury Road, but it essentially comes down to a simple message – see it on the biggest screen possible.