In a movie that takes place amid a wasteland, there is nothing wasted when it comes down to the script. The cars and trucks of the gearhead gladiators may be souped-up and nitro-fueled, but the the story of Mad Max: Fury Road is stripped down to just the necessary elements to propel it forward — even if it is at neck-breaking velocity.
It may have been 30 years since we have had the opportunity to witness the CARnage — with an emphasis on “CAR” — of George Miller’s tales of Max Rockatansky, but the wait was well worth it. So, the writer/director took some time off to step out of the dystopian desert of road warriors to make kid movies about pigs (Babe, Babe: Pig In The City) and penguins (Happy Feet, Happy Feet Two). So what? Miller has come back to Max with a vengeance. And, if “redemption” is a theme of Fury Road (which it is) than consider the filmmaker’s status as a director of action/adventure redeemed.
This road-trip around, Max is played by Tom Hardy — instead of Mel Gibson, who wore the black leather jacket with one shoulder pad the previous three outings (Mad Max, The Road Warrior, Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome). At first, it took some getting used to not to see Gibson behind the wheel of Max’s charged-up Ford Falcon Interceptor. But, Hardy manages to settle into the role quite nicely and only sounds like Bane from The Dark Knight Rises once or twice. The key of Hardy’s portrayal of Mad Max may be that he delivered most of his lines softly or mumbling — which a loner in the wasteland would probably sound like.
Charlize Theron’s Imperator Furiosa is a brutal bad-ass with a sheered head, a mechanical arm, and a weathered and mileage-tested exterior whose sole prize at the end of this car chase race is the aforementioned redemption. Even in the harsh and hostile deadlands in which she wages her high speed war there’s a hint of beauty and hope beneath her chipped and dinged-up body.
At its core, Mad Max: Fury Road is a western, and a great western at that. Instead of evil land barons, corrupt lawmen, outlaws, and hostile Indian tribes, the villains of this film are tyrannical cult leaders, octane fueled thugs, and biker gangs. Mad Max: Fury Road could be perceived as a post-apocalyptic take on John Ford’s Stagecoach — a true western masterpiece.
Is Fury Road a masterpiece? Probably not. But it is a work of art. Within the heart of the movie that relentlessly pumps high-octane adrenalin with stunt work so spectacular you swear you can smell the burning oil and coppery blood mixing with sand, is a tale of finding peace within a harsh world and within oneself.
Mad Max: Fury Road ★★★★★
Directed by George Miller. Written by George Miller, Brendan McCarthy, Nico Lathouris. Starring Tom Hardy, Charlize Theron, Nicholas Hoult, Hugh Keays-Byrne, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, Riley Keough, Zoë Kravitz, Abbey Lee, Courtney Eaton.