What A Lovely Day
A Film Review by Akash Singh
NOTE: SPOILERS OCCUR!!!!!!!
George Miller’s original Mad Max trilogy from the 1980s remains one of the most critically acclaimed trilogies of all time, a superlative, chaotic vision of post-apocalyptic mayhem. Miller had imbued his original classics with a darkness that somehow never became overwhelming, seamlessly integrated into the vast ocean of emptiness brought to life in vivid coloration. Since then, rarely has any action film matched the absolute hysteria, the roaring adrenaline that Miller imbued within every set piece to make each Mad Max installment crush the minimal expectations that came with the action genre. Fury Road takes its highest degree of inspiration from the second installment of the original trilogy, the fantastically mind-boggling Road Warrior, with most of its frenetic two hours taking place on the titular road.
It is, however, by no means required that anyone have knowledge of the prior trilogy to enjoy this film in any way, shape, or form. Miller and Warner Bros. aptly saw the trickiness in reviving a thirty-year-old franchise (the production troubles are well-documented) and instead gave Fury Road all of the independence required to balance what made the series so popular to begin with while telling an entirely new story. This new story, while stumbling here and there, results in one of the finest action films in the entirety of the twenty-first century, screaming and hollering in its absolute, euphoric madness from moment to shining moment. Fury Road is absolutely bonkers and I mean that in the absolute best way possible. There is not an ounce of dullness in the entirety of the experience, from the opening chase sequence to the final hurrah. For two hours my pulse was beating faster than I could have anticipated it beating in a theater, whipping along at a pace more furious than any of the war machines raging across the desert.
Fury Road wastes no time in unsettling its audience into the story. There’s one unnervingly thrilling chase scene before the logo settles in and the ride only gets crazier from there. Miller drops the audience into this crazy post-apocalyptic world and he provides absolutely no clues, no exposition as to what the circumstances are. All we know is that crazy warlord King Immortal Joe uses water as a tool to keep his subjects under control and that Charlize Theron’s Imperator Furiosa is being sent to what appears to be a gas town. On the titular road, Theron gives a singular order of turning east and the slightest hint of plot kicks in. Miller, knowing that the plot is relatively thin, avoids the mistake of unspooling everything at the beginning, instead allowing each narrative thread to sort of unspool at the appropriate pace. Once the midway point of the film is reached, a fairly simple yet ingenious plot twist sends the film hurtling towards its conclusion.
The stories of the apocalyptic wastelands that defined the original trilogy hinging on resource scarcity are present here as well, with the aforementioned water being the crux that drives the citizens of the Citadel to obey their furious master, terrified at the possibility that this vital resource would ever be taken away from them. It sounds fanatical, but water scarcity is a key quandary facing humanity today (the headlines from California alone are terrifying enough, not to mention the rest of the world). As that clicks in the audience’s minds, suddenly the far-flung apocalyptic wasteland of Fury Road doesn’t seem that far-fetched. In line with unspooling his narrative sparsely and at just the right moments, there’s almost no dialogue, which is a two-part masterstroke in this film. For one, the dialogue that remains in the film feels much more significant as a consequence and second, Miller allows the visuals to speak for themselves.
The visuals are front and center of Fury Road and leave it to Miller to craft some of the most fantastic visuals ever put to screen, including the best usage of the traditional orange and blue aesthetic I’ve seen in a long time. Often when visuals are praised over the rest of the film, it’s to the detriment of the entire experience but that is not the case here. Nowadays there are so many blockbuster films that look great but otherwise are pretty terrible that it is astonishing to see a film so ardently, feverishly espouse its visuals but never sacrificing the rest of the film for it. Miller instead takes the visuals of Fury Road and crafts a story told through them and it works, ferociously because of how utterly amazing the visuals are in the first place. Almost every single action movie that I can recall seeing in recent memory is completely and utterly put to shame. Every action sequence in Age of Ultron and Fast and Furious, to use two recent examples, suddenly is nowhere near as impressive and frankly they look simply childish when Miller’s work is set up against them.
Sure, he’s not dealing with superheroes or what have you, but the sheer crazy adrenaline that Miller is able to translate to the screen is astonishing in every sense of the word. From the moment that King Immortal Joe’s war parties chase after Imperator Furiosa’s war rigs, the pulse-racing, fist-pumping rage is on, fueled by Junkie XL’s thundering score. That opening chase sequence as the rigs go towards and through a sandstorm alone is one of the most jaw-dropping sequences I’ve ever seen put to screen, period. Everything and everyone is flying throughout the screen, yet the chaos never feels to claustrophobic to work. Miller heavily emphasized practical effects and real stunt work and it pays off big time here. Everything feels just as gritty as it needs to and the practical effects lend a real sense of danger that wouldn’t have felt germane otherwise. I simply can’t praise the visuals enough.
Tom Hardy replaces Mel Gibson as the titular Max for more reasons than one and he’s utterly fantastic in the role. His dialogue, which is already limited, is further restricted by the mask that chains his mouth for a good quarter of the film or more and perhaps it’s the Dark Knight Rises experience that gave Hardy the experience to rely even more on his facial expressions to convey his emotional heft. But in a film called Mad Max: Fury Road, it is Charlize Theron’s Furiosa who takes the center stage here as the film’s true protagonist. She’s guilty, conflicted, and a real fighter who pushes forward in every sequence, never giving up and never letting go. Furiosa never comes across as a cipher for what or whom a hero should be or the stereotype of being a strong female character. She’s not looking for glory and she’s certainly not pure and selfless. Furiosa, in taking the initiative to rescue the wives of Immortal Joe, is trying to find redemption.
In action movies, it’s rare enough to find a complex female character who’s more than capable of standing on her own. It’s even rarer for action flicks to have an entire group of women taking on a patriarchal establishment, no holds barred, with each of them varied and complex in their own ways. When Joe’s wives take off their chastity belts and kick them into the ground, it isn’t an empty gesture. It’s a warning to the patriarchal society that treats women like objects that it’s days are not merely numbered, but over. The film’s true genius may be that in spite of having the bravado action sequences, it never feels trapped within its genre. It’s understanding of resource scarcity, it’s espousal of feminism, and it’s revolutionary zeal allow it to transcend it entirely. What a day. What a lovely day, indeed.
Great Moments Not Mentioned Above:
+The character evolution of Nicholas Hoult’s War Boy Nux is an absolute treat. What a great character arc to display to great effect in what seemed to be the most minimal of manners.
+The flamethrowing guitar
+The lack of an obligatory romance between Furiosa and Max was fantastic, exchanged instead with a mutual respect cemented in that fantastic final scene
+The sound design and mix combined with Junkie XL’s score was a perfect eargasm
+That sandstorm was exquisite
+The blue wastes they travel through are absolutely haunting without ever drawing too much attention to themselves. It’s an exquisitely eerie scene that has managed to truly stick with me.
+The violence is over the top, but it rarely feels gratuitous.
+The ending was absolute perfection
+The next planned installment is titled Mad Max: Furiosa. Sign me up.
+There is some serious awards caliber here, especially for the technical work, the screenplay, Miller’s direction, and Charlize Theron for Best Actress.
Title: Mad Max: Fury Road
MPAA Rating: R
Directed by: George Miller
Produced by: Doug Mitchell, George Miller, P. J. Voeten
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
Music by: Junkie XL
Cinematography: John Seale
Edited by: Margaret Sixel
Production Company: Kennedy Miller Mitchell, Village Roadshow Pictures
Distributed by: Warner Bros. Pictures
Running Time: 120 minutes
Release Dates: 14 May 2015 (Australia), 15 May 2015 (United States)
Image Courtesy: Wallpapers Craft