Australian filmmaker George Miller's Mad Max: Fury Road is one of the most masterfully made and choreographed action movies I've ever seen. Tom Hardy takes over the title role (originated by Mel Gibson) and with only a few words, anchors the film's minimalist plot as he and Charlize Theron—it's really her story—maximize the relentless, bone rattling action for nearly the entire runtime. It's a triumphant, visionary piece of pulp and modern filmmaking bursting from every frame.
Miller populates the sparse, barren, post-apocalyptical world of controlled chaos with some stellar production design throughout and a crazy cast of characters including Nicholas Hoult, Zoë Kravitz, and Rosie Huntington-Whiteley. Free of any continuity or baggage from its predecessor films (thirty years after Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome), Fury Road is pure, pulse pounding action as the film plays essentially as one long, two-hour car chase with a few act breaks and character moments to round things out. Because of all this, it acts as a fairly refreshing antidote to the current wave of big budget blockbusters as its just as artistically ambitious as it is visually audacious.
A more than welcomed contemporary twist to the new film is its feminist themes and presence of many strong female characters with their own agency and motivations that overtake the mostly thinly drawn male counterparts who serve as villainous devices or ciphers. Furthermore, despite the branding around Hardy as Max Rockatansky, in actuality, it's Theron's one-armed Imperator Furiosa who drives the plot and carries the film in her rescue of five slave wives, each with their own key character moments. Theron is totally physical, full of swagger, displaying a quiet savagery with both grace and ferocity.
Central to the film's loose story is the environmental effects of a drought-filled wasteland where the original films' search for oil is replaced with a need for water coupled with a frantic pace. Subtlety yet thoughtfully, Miller explores the human impact of dictatorship rule set around our collective desperation for survival. Hugh Keays-Byrne embodies this fear playing the frightening warlord leader, Immortan Joe, thirty-six years after portraying Toecutter in the original Mad Max.
Mad Max: Fury Road is all chase in every sense of the word. It's pulsating and mythic in its construction as the film executes an onslaught of inspired destruction and mayhem with total precision and artistry. Hardy and Theron are capable and able of carrying us through this insane ride. It never stops and despite the abundance of action beats, it's devoid of any excess. It's glorious.
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