Review: Mad Max – Fury Road (2015)

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WARNING: POST MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS

Australian director George Miller returns to the post-apocalyptic wastelands of his homeland in this fresh take on the rebirth of a broken man.

More a remake of Road Warrior than a reboot, this follows on from the original Mad Max film and more or less discounts Thunderdome. Tom Hardy takes over from Mel Gibson in the title role of Max Rockatansky, an Australian policeman who, after the murder of his wife and child, suffers a breakdown and heads out into the Outback, convinced that isolation is the only way for him to survive. The film presupposes the failure of world governments to tackle the economic and environmental problems currently being experienced, resulting in the regression of mankind to a feudal state with roaming gangs and isolated communities all engaged in a constant struggle just to stay alive.

At the start of the film, Max is captured by a war party belonging to a community led by Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne who makes his second appearance in a Mad Max film after having played Toecutter in the original) and is kept alive only to be used as a Human blood bank for his War Boys, all of whom are suffering from various forms of cancer brought on by the environmental disaster and are in need of regular transfusions. His chance for escape comes when Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron) betrays Joe and heads off into the desert with his wives, one of whom is pregnant and Nux, (Nicholas Hoult) who is recovering from a previous mission and is in the middle of a transfusion, takes Max on the chase with him so he can continue to get his blood.

The relationship between Joe and Nux is based on the religious fanaticism that we see today, with Joe’s forceful personality seeing him elevated to god-like status and who gives Nux purpose in life by promising him a place in Valhalla in exchange for loyal service and death in battle. Since he’s dying from cancer anyway, Nux and all of the other War Boys, are only too eager to take up this offer of a better world. One of the things Miller does extremely well is his portrayal of fallen Humanity, with all of the characters displaying a recklessness and viciousness brought on by their survival instincts which, in this world, have been exaggerated beyond what we have in our world today. This is the thinking behind the unthinking savagery of the characters, including Max, and of the risks they are willing to take for water, fuel, food and shelter. It also shows how Joe, and others like him, can become demi-gods in this kind of environment as people instinctively look to and support anyone who can provide for them and offer some hope for the future, no matter how unlikely that hope is.

The film progresses steadily from there, with Max eventually regaining his freedom and assisting Furiosa in her quest. The really interesting thing is that this is very much a female led film and Max, despite being the titular character, is an almost incidental add-on to the story who spends most of the film being carried along on Furiosa’s quest to return home. The fights between the two are very even with Furiosa matching Max punch for punch and even outmatching him when it comes to marksmanship. Miller has been praised for the strong women in this film and many other reviews have called Fury Road a thumb in the eye to the traditional male driven action movie. All those who have lambasted Hollywood for the lack of strong female roles will find their complaints well and truly addressed here.

Hardy’s performance is stunningly simple. With little to no dialogue (a creative choice by Miller), he excellently portrays a man haunted by his failure to save the people he loved and has shut himself off from his humanity and feelings. When he does speak, it’s in a low monotone with almost no inflection or expression in his tone and who hears the voices of his family demanding to know why he didn’t save them. The use of flashback cut scenes and fast camera changes, enhances the sensation of a man being hounded into the wastelands by his inner demons.

The film ends with Max having regained a little of his humanity and, with a follow up already in the works, there’s more than enough in this film to warrant further exploration.

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