Mad Max: Fury Road Review
While at first look a heart-racing action film, Mad Max: Fury Road is difficult to categorise. Directing the fourth feature in the series and thirty years on from its last instalment, George Miller melds in this film high-speed, gasoline fuelled action, dystopian science-fiction, western, and feminist power ballad. The latter theme is one of the key elements making Fury Road profoundly original, and it should come as no surprise that Eve Ensler, author of the Vagina Monologues, worked as a consultant on the script.
Not unlike David Michôd’s 2014 film, The Rover, in which Robert Pattinson navigated a lawless outback, Fury Road is set in a dystopian Australia in which oil is a scarce resource, and the country ruled by clans. Imprerator Furiosa (Charlize Theron) is slave to one of these groups, and tasked with collecting gasoline from a nearby town. She instead uses the opportunity to run away in the rig with the five wives of the clan’s cultish leader (Hugh Keays-Byrne), who also long for freedom. Meanwhile, Mad Max (Tom Hardy), a wanderer in the desert, is captured by the same clan and brought along in pursuit of the fleeing vehicle.
Mad Max: Fury Road is a nail-biting, madly-paced two hour car chase, in which Miller delights in flipping action film tropes on their head. The film starts with no explanation of what is going on - the audience has to figure out the plot as it comes along for the ride. The director punctuates his extended action sequences with brutal breaks, in which the screen blacks out and sound goes mute. Meanwhile, the title character is unsympathetic or passive for much of the movie. This is much more Furiosa’s story, and it leads to wonder why the film wasn’t named after her instead. Miller’s plotting is also wholly unpredictable. There is no guessing who lives or dies, nor whether the story is headed towards bleak tragedy, or improbable hopefulness.
Yet perhaps what is most striking is the film’s rousing feminism: the women make up most of the action, and drag the men along in their plan to save themselves. Theron is magnetic as Furiosa, unshakably confident, quiet, and yet expressive. The wives, while delicate in appearance, are determined to escape, no matter the cost, and grimly fight their way through. A pregnancy is no obstacle to fixing engines, and no stereotypes have slipped in: all the women are simultaneously compassionate, and as tough as nails.
With its comic book names and outlandish costumes, Fury Road’s style is not unlike from that of the two Sin City films, while many of the clothes and make-up remind of the Star Wars prequels. Miller has created an elaborate and mythological culture surrounding the clans, which does much to add freshness to the fighting scenes. Their methods of war, marked by a life intertwined with engines, are as gripping as the outcome of the battles. In addition, the character of Nux, (a solid performance from Nicholas Hoult) gives an insight on the blighted life of its slaves. The music, a combination of drums and 80s rock electric guitar, is energizing and marks the pace.
Fury Road’s sole real flaw is its lack of character development. The film lacks some emotional depth, and more fleshed out dialogue could have helped towards this. In addition, it is difficult to discern who Mad Max is, or wants. Tom Hardy handles the role decently, but he is not helped by the script in this regard.
Despite this, Mad Max: Fury Road is an inventive film, packing in spectacular special effects and an uplifting portrayal of women.