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Mad Max: Fury Road - Review

Mad Max: Fury Road

Review by Rob Carnevale

IndieLondon Rating: 5 out of 5

IF George Miller’s first two Mad Max films helped to redefine the landscape of what could be achieved in action cinema, then his belated return to the franchise with Fury Road raises the bar still higher.

A fast, furious and utterly insane thrill-ride from start to finish, this provides eye-popping spectacle of the old-school variety while employing a surprisingly revisionist element to its characterisation. Indeed, one of the most remarkable aspects of Fury Road is the way in which it continually defies certain expectations.

For starters, it’s not just a re-run of the first three films despite honouring the elements that first made it great. It feels fresh and surprisingly relevant. What’s more, it displays a hitherto untapped feminist streak, which adds to the freshness while empowering cinema-goers of both sexes (in itself no mean trick).

And in terms of the aforementioned spectacle, it astounds with the audacity of its stunts, which boast a jaw-dropping, ‘how did they do that’ quality not experienced since The Raid.

The plot picks up as former cop Max (now played by Tom Hardy) is captured by the terrifying Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne) and taken to his hellish Citadel (where men are enslaved as potential sacrificial lambs and pregnant women are literally milked), only to become swept up with a group fleeing across the Wasteland in a War Rig driven by Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron), a former abductee looking for revenge and redemption.

What follows is essentially one long, breathless chase movie. But far from feeling repetitive or even drawn out, Fury Road grips like a vice throughout.

And Miller deserves most of the credit. Visually, his film is all about extremes, with scenes of ugly barbarity juxtaposed by the beauty of its leading characters (the women, especially) and its apocalyptic landscapes (one night sequence in particular is eerily hypnotic, as is an approaching sand-storm). It’s a mesmerising film to watch, even if – at times – its violence is wince-inducing.

But even in its darkest hours, Miller succeeds in injecting both humour and emotion, thereby allowing his talented cast the chance to create characters worth rooting for. Hardy, for his part, invests his Max with the intensity of a young Mel Gibson but slyly nods to characters from his own back catalogue to inform Max’s dementia, whether in the vocal style of his Bane character from The Dark Knight Rises or in the odd wild-eyed look, borrowed and enhanced from Bronson. If, as suggested, the actor has been signed up for at least two more films, then we have another classic hero to look forward to seeing more of.

Theron, though, more than holds her own, imbuing her Furiosa with a warrior spirit to rival Max’s madness, as well as elements of compassion and even vulnerability.

There’s strong support, too, from the likes of Nicholas Hoult, as a crazy foe turned ally, and Abbey Lee and Zoe Kravitz, as two more of the women in the film whose path to some kind of freedom is frought with danger.

It’s a measure of the way Miller successfully balances the film’s near non-stop action with the drama that he still manages to allow characters to grow, evolve and even depend on each other in sometimes surprisingly intimate ways. And with very little dialogue too.

In that regard, his film channels both his earlier work as well as the style of classic Sergio Leone, while the revelry with which he conducts the mayhem recalls the same devil-may-care attitude of classic Indiana Jones with a little of Sam Peckinpah’s hard-hitting violence thrown in.

Taken as a whole, therefore, Mad Max: Fury Road is a thunderous return to form from Miller that absolutely demands to be seen on the big screen. It’s a work of insane brilliance that should make other blockbuster filmmakers sit up and take notice.

Certificate: 15
Running time: 120mins
UK Release Date: May 14, 2015