9 out of 10
Tom Hardy as Max Rockatansky
Charlize Theron as Imperator Furiosa
Nicholas Hoult as Nux
Rosie Huntington-Whiteley as Splendid
Zoë Kravitz as Toast
Riley Keough as Capable
Nathan Jones as Rictus Erectus
Megan Gale as Valkyrie
Hugh Keays-Byrne as Immortan Joe
Josh Helman as Slit
Abbey Lee as The Dag
Courtney Eaton as Fragile
Richard Norton as Imperator
Angus Sampson as Organic Mechanic
Directed by George Miller
Mad Max: Fury Road is an insane thrill-ride that blows away all recent action movies and sets the bar high for those for years to come. Fantastic performances, amazing production design, and characters you care about make this a surprisingly accessible movie.
In the post-apocalyptic future, Max Rockatansky is a lone scavenger amid a desert wasteland. Fuel and water are precious commodities. One day Max finds himself captured by the forces of Immortan Joe, a warlord who rules a band of survivors with an iron fist. Controlling water, humans with pure genes, fuel, and his own personal army, Joe is a man used to having his own way. That is until Imperator Furiosa decides to rebel against him.
Furiosa steals a truck filled with fuel and water and makes a run for the wasteland. She also takes with her Joe’s harem of women who are free from genetic defects. They are determined to find their freedom no matter the cost.
As Immortan Joe pursues the women with a fleet of scrapped-together war machines, Max is dragged along as a blood donor for the zealous warrior Nux. But what they all find in the barren wild will change their world forever.
Mad Max: Fury Road is rated R for intense sequences of violence throughout, and for disturbing images.
A lot of times when you try to revisit a beloved film from the past, the end result simply doesn’t live up to the memory and nostalgia you had for the original. The recent Indiana Jones movie and Star Wars prequels immediately come to mind. Yet Mad Max: Fury Road not only lives up to the previous films, it stands well on its own as an action classic. From the opening minute of the movie, the action starts full throttle and rarely eases up until the credits roll. It sets the bar extremely high for action movies and will inevitably be compared to other films for the next couple of decades. It’s a film that will not only make Mad Max fans happy but will recruit legions of new fans who weren’t even born when the originals hit the big screen.
As mentioned, the action is mind blowing. I have a hard time thinking of another movie that had this level of hardcore action in the last 20 years. The chases here make “The Fast and the Furious” movies look rather tame in comparison. There are amazing car crashes, jaw-dropping jumps from speeding vehicles, and insane fight scenes that make you hold your breath without realizing it. Joe’s army is essentially a band of marauding land pirates and they have all of the bravado and barbarity that you’d expect to go with it. And even when there isn’t action on speeding vehicles, the hand-to-hand fight scenes are equally amazingly executed. An impressive fight scene between Max, Furiosa, Nux, and the brides is one of the best choreographed in a long time. I think this movie makes a strong case for there to be an Oscar for stunt work. And since any character can die at any time, the stakes are much higher than they are in a lot of summer popcorn flicks. At its core this is a Western with equal measures of triumph and tragedy that you’d expect to go with that genre.
The production design of this film is utterly insane as well. For example, a gearshift isn’t just a gearshift. It’s a bone….and a shiv. A monster truck isn’t just a monster truck. It has massive drums and an electric guitar player on bungee cords. Oh, and the guitar shoots flames. It’s all just so brilliantly over the top. As an added bonus, Furiosa’s truck is practically a character on its own. Like the Millennium Falcon in Star Wars or the Orca in Jaws, her vehicle has a personality of its own and is with our heroes for every mile of the chase. To give an inanimate object a bit of character shows the brilliance of George Miller.
While this film is a two-hour non-stop chase sequence, you absolutely care about the characters. Tom Hardy takes over for Mel Gibson as Max and he does an excellent job. He’s a man torn between the brutality this world requires for survival and his past life as a protector. Hardy conveys that inner turmoil well. But while the movie is called Mad Max: Fury Road, the real star is Charlize Theron as Imperator Furiosa. She is, essentially, a female Mad Max. If she had both of her arms, it’s quite possible that she could beat Max. She’s a fantastic heroine and she’ll be joining Ripley, Sarah Connor, and Princess Leia on the list of cinema’s toughest women. The rest of the cast stands out as well. Nicholas Hoult continues to show his versatility as an actor in his role as Nux. Hoult has played a zombie, Jack (from the beanstalk), and Beast. Now he plays a post-apocalyptic warrior here in one of his most memorable roles. He brings heart and nobility to this mad religious zealot. It’s an impressive physical and emotional challenge for an actor and he pulls it off well. The brides each have their own moments to shine and, surprisingly, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley stands out as Splendid. I won’t spoil some surprises with her, but the audience quickly roots for her character and quickly becomes emotionally invested in her survival. Also noteworthy is Hugh Keays-Byrne as Immortan Joe. He played Toecutter in the original Mad Max and returns here to create a very memorable cinematic villain. He’s just insane on every level and commands the screen every time he appears.
I also need to mention the music by Junkie XL. For a lot of films, the music fades into the background and is simply white noise. Here, the music is the heartbeat of the chase and sweeps you along the post-apocalyptic wasteland. This is a score worth picking up to listen to later.
I took my wife to see Mad Max: Fury Road the day before Mother’s Day. (An odd choice, I know.) She had never seen the previous three “Mad Max” movies and basically tagged along because I was interested in it. But George Miller set this up so that anyone can jump on board and follow it without any problem, but they better hold on tight once they do. I was surprised to find that my wife enjoyed it quite a bit. She liked Nux’s transition as a character, the toughness of Furiosa, and the mission of the brides. And she enjoyed the insane action of the chase. I think Mad Max: Fury Road could potentially have broader appeal than any of the previous films and it’s going to be interesting to see how it fares as it goes up against the rest of the summer fare.
What Didn’t Work:
Most of what didn’t work, in my mind, is a nitpick. Some of the characters that were killed off I wish Miller had kept alive. But if they didn’t kill of a few characters that you liked, it wouldn’t have the high stakes I previously mentioned. I’m just sad I won’t get to see more of them.
The film also ends a tad awkwardly. It closes on a rousing note and then cuts to a random quote that leaves the audience scratching their heads. I would have rather seen Max riding off into the sunset as is appropriate for the Western that this is.
Finally, it took George Miller 14 years to make this movie. I’m sure hoping we don’t have to wait until 2029 to see another Mad Max movie.
The Bottom Line:
While it’s still early in the summer, Mad Max: Fury Road is the best movie of the summer so far. I really look forward to seeing it again and it sets the bar high not only for movies for the rest of the summer, but for action movies for the next 10 years. I hope we get to explore more of the world of Mad Max again soon.
[Gallery not found]