Mad Max: Fury Road


Reviewed by: Max Crawford

In a post-Apocalyptic world, a survivor hooks up with a mysterious woman to face off against murderous gangs in Mad Max: Fury Road, which is screening Out Of Competition in Cannes.
"The startling idea driving MM:FR is that it's possible to construct a film entirely out of good bits."

Normally when someone tells you that a film is painful to watch it's an indication that it should be avoided. Mad Max: Fury Road was painful to watch because I spent the entire runtime with my whole body clenched. Parts of me are unclenching even now—parts that I didn't know could be clenched. It's been a voyage of discovery.

The premise is extraordinary. Not the post-apocalyptic wasteland where resources are scarce but everyone has enough fuel to drive around the desert blowing each other up for hours on end, we've seen that before. No, the startling idea driving MM:FR is that it's possible to construct a film entirely out of good bits. I know! Surely, you would think, someone would have tried this before now. Perhaps they tried and failed. We may never know. MM:FR is the first to carry it off with any degree of success.

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We open on a chase scene, dispensing with any such unnecessary baggage as “origin” or “backstory” or “setup”. There's a man, it's pretty safe to assume his name is Max, and he's being chased by a lot of crazy-looking people in fast cars with pointy bits on. This is such a strong start that the plot doesn't feel much need to deviate from it over the course of two hours. This is an excellent decision. If it's been a while since you've seen the first Mad Max, it's heavy on the origin and backstory and low on the being interesting or good, up until the point where there's a guy called Max getting chased by people in cars. The second one still holds up, but most of the best scenes in some way revolve around Max getting chased by people in cars. The less said about Beyond Thunderdome the better, but note that it features very little by way of Max being chased by cars and is also a colossal waste of everyone's time.

Fury Road (let's just call it Fury Road, MM:FR sounds like an infection) takes all the over-the-top extravagance of The Humungus and his crew from Mad Max 2 and asks: “Once we're over the top, what's actually up there? Are there other, higher tops we can go over? Let's aim as high as possible and see if we can find out.” Thus we end up with the bleached mane and grinning skull-face of Immortan Joe, the tumour-riddled, endearingly fanatic War Boys, and a man wearing a judge's wig made out of bullets and some of his teeth are also bullets. Do not question any of this. You can either delight in an appearance from the spike-bristled VW Beetle from The Cars That Ate Paris or you can accept that your heart will never know joy. It's your call.

Tom Hardy tricks you into forgetting that anyone else ever played the role of Max by about ten minutes in, but the standout role by far is Charlize Theron as Imperator Furiosa. Both seek to escape from Immortan Joe, and in doing so they form an uneasy alliance. While Max is just along for the ride, Furiosa has a mission, and she carries the emotional core of the film while offhandedly being the best female action hero since T2: Judgement Day's Sarah Connor. It would be easy to cast aside “human emotions” and “reasons for doing things” in the quest for ever more impressive visuals and practical effects, but here, much like in T2, we're fortunate enough to be living in the best of all possible worlds.

There are plenty of nods to the earlier Mad Max universe - a music box here, a misbehaving shotgun there, a mischievously overcranked chase sequence right at the beginning - but rest assured that Fury Road is its own entity, and one that's overtaken its predecessors and left them eating its can't-even-really-tell-it's-CGI dust.

The last part of my body has finally unclenched. I'm ready for another go.

Reviewed on: 11 May 2015
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In a post-Apocalyptic world, survivor Max hooks up with a mysterious woman to face off against murderous gangs.
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Read more Mad Max: Fury Road reviews:

Anton Bitel ****

Director: George Miller

Writer: George Miller, Brendan McCarthy, Nick Lathouris

Starring: Tom Hardy, Charlize Theron, Nicholas Hoult, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, Zoë Kravitz, Riley Keough, Nathan Jones, Hugh Keays-Byrne, Megan Gale, Abbey Lee, Courtney Eaton, Josh Helman, Debra Ades, Richard Norton, Angus Sampson

Year: 2015

Runtime: 120 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: Australia, US


Cannes 2015

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If you like this, try:

The Cars That Ate Paris
Mad Max