Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Mad Max: Fury Road

We got a new Mad Max movie this year, the 4th, with a new Max in Tom Hardy, taking over the role that made Mel Gibson a star. Sadly, Hardy doesn't have Gibson's charisma, humor, or unhinged anger hiding just below the surface (and sometimes on the surface). He's a fine actor who's done great work before, but he doesn't make much of an impression here. Thankfully, and oddly, Max isn't really the main or most memorable character in Mad Max: Fury Road, that honor belongs to Charlize Theron's Imperator Furiosa. And in it Theron gives a performance of great power and surprising depth. It's surprising because action movies aren't usually known for their acting. But this isn't any action movie, it's one of the great and most inventive ones ever made.

We catch up with Max as he's captured by a group of War Boys, the underlings of our villain Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne, who was also the villain Toecutter in the first Mad Max movie back in 1979). Joe rules over The Citadel, a city of people who are starved, thirsty, and mutated from some kind of nuclear holocaust. He also has groups of women he keeps as Breeders, and is surrounded by innumerable deformed children. Furiosa leads the War Rig on a run to get gas and bullets, but instead she has secretly snuck out Joe's wives and plans to take them to The Green Place, where she was born and where they'll be safe. Max becomes involved through a War Boy named Nux (Nicholas Hoult) for whom Max is being drained of his universal donor blood. Essentially what follows is an hour and a half of chase scenes in the two hour movie. And it's the best chase action movie since Children of Men.

Writer/director George Miller has created a disturbingly grotesque world with the Mad Max universe. Since Miller is a filmmaker with class, he thankfully hasn't made a gross movie trying to trade on the monstrous creations he's come up with. He created a new type of post-apocalyptic world, and in it he's dropped an extraordinary and almost relentless action movie. I say almost because there is a startling amount of depth here. Furiosa is a fascinating character, presumably barren since she's the only woman in The Citadel we see who's not a breeder or wife. Her anger and intelligence bubbles underneath every action. And her hope and determination drive the story more than anything Max does. She's a wonderful creation by both Miller and Theron.

Fury Road is also, despite the grotesquery, a gorgeous movie to look at. Cold steel blues at night, bright sun baked desert in the daylight, strange shadowy swampland, and a sandstorm for the ages. Miller has crafted a truly wondrous visual creation. He's said he wanted a lot of color in the movie, since most post-apocalyptic movies goes for a washed out palette. He decided to go the opposite route, and we are the better for it as viewers. It earns its R-rating with its endless violence, but again Miller never dwells on it nor does he show anything gratuitous, never lingering on any violence. This is a good, old fashioned, action movie, not a horror flick despite the sound and look of Joe and his servants. It may not be the best action movie ever made, but it has to be on the shortlist.

1 comment:

kathy said...

I think Theron is an excellent actress, but I did not think this movie translated well to the small screen.