Some films perfectly deliver what they promise. If you are going to Mad Max: Fury Road looking for high drama or a deep, emotional tale which will make you contemplate, life, love and your general outlook on existence then you are watching it for all the wrong reasons (and should look at the title – it’s called Fury Road?). If you want blistering action, brainless fun and a straight-forward story designed purely to deliver more violent, head-rush sequences then this is exactly what you’ve been looking for.
This isn’t a negative at all. It wasn’t supposed to be. Too many films are discredited for being nothing more than “popcorn” or “brainless” and that should never be a criticism. Movies designed to be good, outright fun can be done badly but a film just trying to entertain with well placed explosions, decent heroic characters and a story that doesn’t take a degree to follow should not be dismissed because of this. Mad Max: Fury Road is how to do this kind of movie right.
From the outset you get what you’ve paid for. It is fast-paced, endless action with no hold-up. Max is captured, tortured and manages a feeble escape before being recaptured again – all in the first ten minutes. This is to be expected for the next two hours as very little time is given to exposition or story-telling. In fact, it isn’t an insult to say that there isn’t a huge amount to the story. Charlize Theron’s Imperator Furiosa manages to rescue five young girls much to the outrage of the big bad villain, Immortan Joe. He then proceeds to chase down the women and somewhere in the mix Max gets thrown in too. It is that simple.
And it needs to be. This film isn’t trying to tell a confusing, epic fable but is delivering action that you won’t have seen for a long time. The idea is to get to the car chase as soon as possible and when it does, the movie comes into its element. The first few moments of the car chase, with Max tied to the front of a vehicle and a dust storm flowing around them is both a visual treat and also a non-stop explosive action sequence that dares you to blink for fear of missing something.
For this reason it is a movie that deserves re-watching. The action sequences are choreographed perfectly. There are some great moments where people throw themselves from one car, to another, to be blown out of the sky to fall in a heap of metal, sand and fire. There isn’t a point on the screen where something exciting isn’t occurring.
This is both Fury Road’s strength and greatest flaw. Once the first huge chase sequence begins to die-out, the film lulls. There are still some great moments of action and a few decent interactions but the film won’t manage to deliver anything quite as interesting until the final twenty minutes. It means we have to rely on the characters within Theron’s crew to carry the movie.
This is delivered with mixed results. Theron is great as the female lead and could arguably be the central hero of the movie. The film focuses much more on her struggle and journey than it does on Max. It almost feels like Max is a passenger in his own movie. You get the impression that his inclusion made this film much more marketable as without him, much of the action and story would carry through unhindered.
As for the character of Max himself, Tom Hardy does a decent job. When it comes to dialogue, he has little to say, literally being the man of few words. The most Hardy says is grunted in what I assume is supposed to be an Australian accent – not that it matters considering he says so little. It isn’t a criticism either though because his action credentials are here to see. From the chase at the beginning of the movie to some big moments in the final act, Hardy demonstrates that he has a future as an action hero, or at least in more Mad Max movies, if it was ever needed.
The rest of the characters are fairly simple but brilliantly crafted. George Miller has evolved his post-apocalyptic world and crafted locations desolate but as full of character and potential as anything Peter Jackson showed us in Middle Earth. From the swamps and the freaky crows to the water starved Crucible, there is plenty of potential for stories and various characters if Miller ever wanted to revisit his creation again.
It is just a shame that some of the shallow aspect of the movie begins to show in the middle acts. The sequence where the “war-machine” is stuck in the mud or Hardy first meets the characters he will aid, all suddenly bring proceedings to a harsh stop. It is always interesting but the promise of Fury Road is non-stop action which isn’t necessarily met in full here.
Overall, Mad Max: Fury Road is a violent, action-fuelled, visual treat that will grab you from the outset and keep your interest throughout. The two-hour chase is always thrilling, with some amazing stunts and great visual effects, non-more so than the first sequence in the dust storm. The moments of quiet within the movie shine like a beacon though and don’t quite match the excellence that has gone before.
Rating – 4
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