By Marty Mulrooney
Mad Max: Fury Road is a post-apocalyptic action film created by Australian director George Miller. The fourth film in the Mad Max series, Fury Road isn’t a reboot, or even a remake – rather, it’s a ‘re-take’ or ‘re-visit’ of the world with Tom Hardy replacing Mel Gibson as the titular Road Warrior. In the director’s own words: ““Mad Max is caught up with a group of people fleeing across the Wasteland in a War Rig driven by the Imperator Furiosa. This movie is an account of the road war which follows. It is based on the Word Burgers of the History Men and eyewitness accounts of those who survived.” Once again, ‘Mad’ Max Rockatansky has nothing left to fight for apart from his own survival, until…
Set in a desert wasteland after a nuclear war, civilisation has collapsed and gasoline (along with water) is in short supply and high demand. The film opens with Max, riddled with post-traumatic stress and haunted by ghosts of the past, being chased down and captured by the indoctrinated ‘War Boys’ – a group of terminally ill soldiers who are part of a death cult worshiping a living God named Immortan Joe – before being taken to The Citadel, a cluster of rock towers that sit high above an underground supply of fresh water.
Immortan Joe – played brilliantly by Hugh Keays-Byrne, the villain ‘Toecutter’ from the original Max Max – is a stocky brute with long white hair and piercing blue eyes, his back covered in large boils indicating some type of skin disease. Breathing through a warlike respirator mask (decorated with a skeletal jaw) attached to a large breathing apparatus worn on his shoulders like armour pads, Immortan Joe rules over the population through violence and his iron grip over the water supply.
One of Immortan Joe’s most trusted allies is Imperator Furiosa, a mysterious warrior (much like Max) with a mechanical arm played by Charlize Theron. The story centres around Furiosa’s betrayal of Immortan Joe as she smuggles his Five Wives – beautiful, disease-free women specially selected for breeding – out of the Citadel. Driving a heavily armoured War Rig during what should be a routine supply run to collect gasoline from Gas Town, she unexpectedly veers off-road and so begins a chase that will last the duration of the movie.
Once Immortan Joe realises his property has been stolen, he mobilises the War Boys and sends everyone and everything he has at his disposal – himself included – in hot pursuit. One of the War Boys, Nux (played by English actor Nicholas Hoult of About a Boy and X-men fame), is hooked up to his ‘blood bag’ Max when the battle commences. He straps Max to the bonnet of his highly customized 1932 Ford Deuce Coupe as a portable blood donor and joins the race. As a result, Max spends a large part of the opening action sequences chained up in an iron mask.
Of course, Max eventually frees himself and the insane action that ensues is old-school fun to the extreme. Everything (car smashes, death-defying stunts) has been done for real and it shows on-screen, the world masterfully enhanced with CGI rather than being replaced by it, the only exception being a terrifying sand storm (please take note Zack Snyder). The end of the world has never looked so bright, colourful and beautiful. The performances are terrific and Hardy simply is the world-weary Mad Max, Road Warrior, conveying so much with mere looks alone, the occasional words of gravel thrown in for good measure.
Yet it’s Charlize Theron as Furiosa who steals the show, the pain of what’s she done to survive this long etched into her face likes battle scars as she fights for redemption. The relationship between Max and Furiosa (and rather surprisingly, Nux too) is at the heart of a movie that more than over-delivers on the legacy of its predecessors. The most exciting cinematic experience of 2015 so far, Max Max: Fury Road brings the legendary Road Warrior back to life explosively with flames coming out of the exhaust pipe. Sure, it leaves as many questions hanging as it answers… but that’s what sequels are for, isn’t it?
9 OUT OF 10
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