Review – Mad Max: Fury Road

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.

Mad Max: Fury Road - the message is simple: see it on the biggest screen possible

Mad Max: Fury Road – the message is simple: see it on the biggest screen possible

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.

Beyond Thunderdome: Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron) in Mad Max: Fury Road

Beyond Thunderdome: Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron) in Mad Max: Fury Road

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).

Bane of existemce: Max (Tom Hardy) in Mad Max: Fury Road

Bane of existence: Max (Tom Hardy) in Mad Max: Fury Road

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.

Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne) goes in search of his wives in Mad Max: Fury Road

Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne) goes in search of his wives in Mad Max: Fury Road

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?

The polecats get in on the action in Mad Max: Fury Road

The polecats get in on the action in Mad Max: Fury Road

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.

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Review – Locke

On paper not the most enticing or exciting of prospects, it says a lot about the powerhouse performance of its sole operator that Locke is such an impressive feature.

The film's visual signature is understandably sparse (there's only so many ways you can film the inside of a car) but that only serves to focus attention further on one of the performances of the year. Locke is a long dark night of the soul you won't forget

The film’s visual signature is understandably sparse (there’s only so many ways you can film the inside of a car) but that only serves to focus attention further on one of the performances of the year. Locke is a long dark night of the soul you won’t forget

In recent years we’ve seen a growing number of experimental films based solely within a single location; movies that offer a welcome divergence from what is normally drip fed via the studios.

Standouts include the excellent Rodrigo Cortés nail-biter Buried (2010), the little seen psychological thriller Exam (2009) and zombie movie Pontypool (2008) and Steven Knight’s claustrophobic road movie is a strong addition to this micro-genre.

In the case of Locke, the restrictions it places on itself are particularly constraining. Its singular location is a BMW car being driven by construction foreman Ivan Locke (Tom Hardy), whose decision one evening to drive to London from Birmingham has far-reaching consequences not only on his professional career but also his marriage and family.

A long dark night of the soul awaits Ivan Locke (Tom Hardy) in Locke

A long dark night of the soul awaits Ivan Locke (Tom Hardy) in Locke

As Ivan makes his fateful drive, we see the consequences of his actions play out through the increasingly fraught telephone conversations he has with wife Katrina (Ruth Wilson), son Eddie (Tom Holland), work colleague Donal (Andrew Scott) and boss Gareth (Ben Daniels); as well as with another woman Bethan (Oliva Colman). Never has the cooly automated message “you have a call waiting” had such charged overtones.

It’s no surprise Hardy jumped at the chance to flex his acting muscles following a number of physically intimidating turns in the likes of The Dark Knight Rises (2012) and Warrior (2011) and he delivers a bravura performance of a man whose methodical existence is ripped asunder as the pressure mounts.

Tom Hardy gives a mesmerising performance in the central role of Locke

Tom Hardy gives a mesmerising performance in the central role of Locke

Shot in real-time, Hardy visibly ages and deteriorates. Even his body works against him as the effects of a cold virus take hold. Hardy’s Welsh accent and tightly coiled stoicism brings to mind early Richard Burton and it’s a testament to the strength of his presence on screen that the comparison is entirely appropriate.

Such a performance therefore doesn’t need a script that can’t help trowelling on the metaphor. We learn very early on that concrete plays a big part of Locke’s life and Knight doesn’t shy away from laying on the symbolism as the foundations begin to crumble under his character’s feet.

The foundations begin to crumble in Locke

The foundations begin to crumble in Locke

By using the wrong concrete, Locke informs Donal, “cracks appear and they will grow and grow until they collapse”.  And as if we haven’t deduced the analogy, he goes to say: “You make one little mistake and the whole world comes crashing down around you.”

As the walls close in, Locke’s fractured psyche reveals itself through one-way conversations he has with his neglectful dad through the rear view mirror. He’s determined not to repeat the sins of the father, but events seem to suggest otherwise and, tellingly, he subconsciously looks into the same mirror as he talks to his son.

The film’s visual signature is understandably sparse (there’s only so many ways you can film the inside of a car), but that only serves to focus attention further on one of the performances of the year. Locke is a long dark night of the soul you won’t forget.