Director: George Miller
Screenplay: George Miller
Starring: Tom Hardy, Charlize Theron, Nicholas Hoult, Hugh Keays-Byrne, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, Riley Keough, Zoë Kravitz, Abbey Lee, Courtney Eaton
Runtime: 120 Minutes
Original UK Release: 2015
Whenever a film is reported to be undergoing production woes, delays and re-writes in the media then one can be forgiven for immediately assuming the worst. For a prolonged period, it felt like George Miller’s long-awaited return to the throne would be nothing more than a pipedream wrapped in the garments of a compromised studio product.
But now, against all odds, it appears that Max Rockatansky (Tom Hardy) has returned with a vengeance to re-establish the genre he helped to build. We find Max right where we left him; only some alarming metamorphosis has taken hold of the wasteland and its inhabitants. The franchise title has never felt more terrifyingly fitting, as in its 30-year absence from the screen Miller’s universe has gone completely, irreparably, stark raving mad.
Lacking a strict chronology within the series, Fury Road acts more as a spiritual successor to The Road Warrior in sense of structure, execution and elemental requirement. The narrow plot functions merely as the framework for the chase that dominates nearly the entire runtime. In any other picture, this might be considered a weakness, but a thicker plot would only add weight to the speed that this machine moves at.
Relentless is the only word to describe the pace as it wastes no time in establishing its main players and setting with great ease and precision. Any qualms concerning reasonable judgement are thrown to the wind as the characters scramble for their lives at every given minute. This is mostly down to a stripped bare screenplay that champion’s the ability to show instead of tell, with many characters speaking as rarely as the hero himself and acting on impulse to convey motivation.
The villains of the piece are The War Boys, an archaic and depraved cult led by brick shithouse King Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne). A civilisation has been constructed around their crippled deity as they work under their divine belief in a cannibalised mixture of Norse mythology and the oneness with the steering wheel. These are men driven mad by the gasoline that they crave, to such an extent that they hold up the wheel with near-messianic intent. The unity of man and machine only ever dreamed of in its predecessors has manifested here into the ultimate apotheosis.
The lunacy of these figures is shared with the aesthetic mindset of the film itself, as if only now with the backing of a blockbuster budget has Miller’s full vision come to life. The scale is monstrous and awe-inspiring as we are treated to sights of choreographed practical stunts and vehicular carnage the likes of which cinema has never seen before – these are incredible feats of constructive spectacle that never tire in their ingenuity. The strain of blood, sweat and tears is felt with every second through a sustained peril that keeps you in fear for the heroes’ wellbeing, with the pain felt in every brutal hit taken.
All of this is shot and edited to perfection in a glorious widescreen frame that utilises every facet of the screen, replicating many of the same filmmaking methods as the original films. But Miller is never one to neglect the fun as the humour is balanced wonderfully with the ridiculousness of the tone, and even some of the more twisted elements of dark comedy that divulge in humanities squalid strangeness only elevates the absurdity of it all. At two hours long the film does induce exhaustion in the final stretch, but you'll love it all the more for pushing you the extra mile.
Not without empathy though, Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron) is a fantastic figure with an emotionally crippling back-story who mirrors Max himself. She’s the more investing of the two to watch, but Max has rarely been a person of many words beyond his established character mould. A lone gunman of his own western who is thrust into events against his will, Max’s defensive and hard-bitten shell is broken down by his experiences with those around him and Hardy channels this with grumbling, gristly ease.
There is an emotional core present here that hasn’t been tapped since the original 1979 feature. It’s remarkable that beyond Hardy and Nicholas Hoult as the harebrained Nux the remainder of the protagonists and incidental characters are all potent female personalities. The brides are all delightfully testy and unrestrained while later additions further add to the roster. These are the life givers in a landscape of gruff male dominance and permit the film a strong feminist perspective.
This is George Miller’s magnum opus; a lunatic’s masterpiece. With a unique approach to design, solid characterisation, raucous performances and an outstanding presentation to its action sequences, this homecoming venture has not only exceeded expectation but has laid a new benchmark in action cinema history as both the best instalment of the franchise to date, and one of the finest action blockbusters of the decade.