Jim’s Movie Reviews: Mad Max Fury Road

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Don’t call it a re-boot.  It’s not.  Mad Max: Fury Road  can be considered the fourth in the series (at least, as far as I’m concerned) of George Miller movies featuring Max, a reluctant hero in a post-apocalyptic desert wasteland. As in two of the previous entries, Max (Tom Hardy) finds himself facing down the forces of chaos in an effort to help a group attempting to better their plight.  This time, Max lends his efforts to Furiosa (Charlize Theron), a warrior in her own right leading a group of refugee concubines of a mad cult leader to her childhood home across the wasteland.

Rather than return to the origin of the character, we get some simple callbacks to Max’s past as he flashes back to the murder of loved ones.  Again, we find Max with little left to hope for himself, but shepherding the hopes of those naive or innocent enough to yet cling to it. The interplay between Max and Furiosa is a new thing for the series, in that they fully share the weight of it all, each having seen a life before the endless waste and abject inhumanity.

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Fury Road , in my opinion, realizes Miller’s vision more fully than any previous entry in the franchise.  To put it simply, the film takes everything previous and goes to 11 on it.  Packed with incredible views from cinematographer John Seale, sewn together with a driving, punishing rhythm by editor Margaret Sixel, and so very Miller in its colorful originality, the first half hour had me abandoning all notions of a summer action film better than this one in 2015.  It’s metal.  If The Road Warrior was to be likened to classic, blues-y Danzig, then Fury Road is early 90’s Pantera or Judas Priest.

With the kind of eyes-bleeding visuals and breakneck action this film puts out, it’d have been easy to degenerate into an album cover caricature of itself.  However, the sparse script, excellent physical acting by all involved, and compelling story arcs for each character serve to tie it down, making the acts of heroism and sacrifice stand out amidst the lunacy of it all. The punches hit that much harder, the fires burn that much hotter, and the sacrifices of the protagonists are that much more meaningful for having the depth of character Miller brings to these figures both from the page and from those portraying them.  Charlize hammers it home, bringing audiences the most compelling agency in an action heroine since Alien‘s Ripley.  And (sigh of relief) Hardy makes a truly excellent Max.  Given only sparse dialogue, he conveys reams in every expression.

If I had a complaint (and I certainly don’t have enough to form a coherent complaint about), I’d say the film felt a little top-heavy in the first act…but it had the guts to break convention there, and it certainly made sense in context of the hero clawing his way out of a crucible alongside others on the road to redemption.

Go see it in the theater.  There’s two movies already out this summer I’d place ahead of Avengers: Age Of Ultron, and this is one of them (go see Ex Machina as well).  In my opinion, Mad Max: Fury Road operates on a level that Avengers simply can’t, or doesn’t.

This is high-minded sci-fi set to metal, and it’ll rock your tits off.

9.5 out of 10, one of my all-time faves.

 

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