May 17, 2015
I have only a fleeting memory of the Mad Max films from 1979-1985 directed by George Miller and starring Mel Gibson. These were set in the dystopian future in Australia, where energy is a critical commodity. Max was a man mad with revenge after his wife and child were brutally murdered. This setting is all the background you need to know about the previous franchise in order to enjoy this present incarnation, 30 years after "Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome", the last film of the first trilogy.
In the massive Citadel, a skull mask-wearing tyrant Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne) rules, cruelly withholding precious water from his impoverished subjects. Mad Max Rockatansky (Tom Hardy) has been captured to become a blood donor for Nux (Nicholas Hoult), one of Joe's War Boys. Elsewhere, Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron), a female War-Rig driver, helps Joe's five wives escape to the fabled "Green Place" of her childhood. Nux, with Max still attached to him, joins Joe and the other War Boys to pursue Furiosa. This chase leads to a major explosive battle-royale in the desert, one that would cause an upheaval of the balance of power in the outback.
The screenplay by George Miller, Brendan McCarthy and Nico Lathouris was rich and complex, with deep emotional moments. The cinematography of John Seale, with his orange-tinged day scenes and yellowish-hued night scenes, was breathtaking to behold. The magnificent action sequences with 90% actual (not CG!) vehicular stunts with gigantic monster trucks were so perfectly planned and executed. These were edited with precision by Margaret Sixel, with awesome sound mixing to boot. I thought the eye-popping 3D effects for those exhilarating car chase scenes are very much worth the extra in ticket price.
Tom Hardy was impressive in both his athletic ability and his facial expressiveness as the quietly macho Max. He was required to underplay his role since Max is a strong and silent type. But to his credit, Hardy was able to come up with a relatively silent but memorably strong performance. His final scene was very haunting even without any words being spoken.
Despite being totally bald, one-armed, with black grease on her face, Charlize Theron never loses her elegant screen presence for a moment. Her performance, so rough and physical and yet so warm and moving, was the very heart of the film. Truth to tell, she was riveting every time she is onscreen, even stealing the thunder from the title character himself. Rare as it may be for an action film, I feel Theron is definitely in serious contention for a Best Actress award.
More than anything else, "Mad Max: Fury Road" is one gorgeous-looking film. Director George Miller was able to mine cinematic beauty from the vicious violence and badass brutality amidst the dirty and dusty dystopian setting, and that is no mean feat. I am looking forward to the coming installments of this new and improved Mad Max franchise. 9/10.