Mad Max offers straightforward, non-stop action thrill ride
From the very first scene, "Mad Max: Fury Road" staples you to the wall and spins you around like a centrifuge until you feel yourself starting to blackout. Then it pulls you down and offers you a warm cup of tea and an icepack before throwing you headfirst through a fifth-story window into an alligator pond. "Fury Road" is a tight, succinct and efficient work of art that is all story and action. Never wasting a moment on extraneous subplots for the sake of filler or forcing contrived love stories down your throat, it is a movie of unwavering focus. That focus is centered right on your adrenal gland and when you leave the theater, everyday life will take on the dull gray tones of Pleasantville.
The fourth installment in the "Mad Max" series is once again led by Max Rockatansky (Tom Hardy) who is immediately taken hostage by a group of pale zealots serving a brutal warlord named Immortan Joe ( Hugh Keays-Byrne). Max’s path eventually crosses with Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron), who has betrayed the warlord in order to escort a group of women used as breeders and wives of Immortan Joe, to somewhere called the Greenplace.
They attempt to drive a giant war rig, an 18-wheeler with all the murderous amenities one could want when traversing a post-apocalyptic landscape, to the Greenplace while outpacing three different war clans hellbent on their violent deaths.
George Miller, who has written and directed every "Mad Max" movie to date, revives his legendary series with defibrillators attached to lightning towers and along with it, a side to his directing that one may have thought he lost after his last three outings included "Happy Feet," "Happy Feet Two" and "Babe: Pig in the City." But he shows his genius and versatility as the 30 years between this and his last action outing seem more like a nap than three decades.
He finds a sweet spot that provides wall to wall action while giving you enough breaks in between to rest your heart rate and surprisingly, never comes close to being gratuitous or gaudy. His intermittent use of accelerated motion camera adds intensity while almost making you feel like you’re losing your mind.
The battle choreography is some of the best you’ll see in any movie. While no movement is wasted for the sake of aesthetics, the battle scenes are both vicious and beautiful providing so much eye candy that you may get a cavity.
The plot is well written and the mythology created by Miller kidnaps the audience into the scorched, post-nuclear wasteland that the movie inhabits. It caters to both fans of the earlier titles and newcomers, requiring no prior knowledge to understand the plot but reprising plenty of easter eggs from the first three films, letting the diehard fans know that it’s the same hell on earth they’ve come to love.
Tom Hardy makes acting look effortless as he continues his trend of being the baddest man on the planet. He steps out of the way and lets the story and environment take center stage while maintaining the smoothness and cool that Mel Gibson infused in the character in the earlier films. Both Hardy and Theron bring incredible subtlety to their roles which contrast perfectly with the tone of the rest of the movie. Their characters play well off each other creating a chemistry that doesn’t get thrown in your face.
Hugh Keays-Byrne, hidden behind Immortan Joe’s mask, will not be recognized by fans of the series until they are told that he played Toecutter, the main antagonist of the first movie. While the two characters are not connected in any way, the choice to bring back Keays-Byrne was a good one as the image he projects on the screen is powerful, sinister and intimidating.
If there was one flaw in the film, it was the need to throw Victoria’s Secret model Rosie Huntington-Whiteley (Transformers: Dark of the Moon) into yet another prominent action movie as Immortan Joe’s favorite wife, a role that could’ve been played by someone with more acting skill.
The other wives played by Zoe Kravitz, Riley Keough, Abbey Lee and Courtney Eaton filled the screen well with diverse personalities that created different connections with each and Nicholas Hoult brings great heart with his performance as Nux.
The film doesn’t muddy itself up with subtext, symbolism or metaphor. It’s nothing but a good ol’ wholesome popcorn flick designed to keep you enthralled. It is so well done as to have a universal appeal and even people who don’t consider themselves fans of action movies will have a great time and testify to the quality.
The overabundance of good in this movie compared with the modicum of bad has turned this review into nothing but a love letter. In fact this entire thing was superfluous and the movie could be summed up in one commonly overused word: Awesome.