In a world where modern day action movies are characterized by an abundance of extravagant CGI, expendable characters, and an over emphasis on quantity over quality, Mad Mad: Fury Road stands out as a shining example of what an action movie genre can achieve when it’s truly taken seriously.
Directed by industry veteran George Miller, who is responsible for the previous three Mad Max films as well as children’s movies like Happy Feet and Babe, Fury Road is an absurdly brilliant action fest that is just as erratic as it is breathtaking.
It shows the audience a story rather than tells them one, and somehow manages to do it better than arguably any other action movie has done in the past couple years. Miller throws the audience into a barren wasteland of a world without any real context, and yet, by the time the credits roll, you’ll have had an intimate and intense experience with a beautifully realized world where only the mad can survive.
The real beauty of Mad Max: Fury Road comes from its incredible emphasis on visual storytelling, as Miller and company have painstakingly created a rich world teeming with life, personality, and an undying passion for chaos.
While this was my first experience with a Mad Max movie, not once did I feel lost or overwhelmed by anything on screen. Even when the action becomes increasingly erratic, which it does almost immediately, Miller directs it all with such seamless ease that the action never feels needlessly busy or hard-to-follow.
Rather, everything in Fury Road seems to have a distinct reason for existing, and for a two-hour movie that is almost entirely made up of action sequences, it’s a miracle in and of itself that it never grows repetitive. Every consecutive confrontation brings something new to the table, and it’s surprising how much diversity the movie is able to find in its desert setting.
With all that said, what most impressed me about Fury Road was its characters. In a ballsy, but refreshing, twist, Max himself is almost a supporting character in his own movie, as it’s Charlize Theron’s Imperator Furiosa who really steals the show.
Furiosa is introduced to the audience without any formal introduction, and it’s up to the audience to watch and learn what her motives are and how far she’s willing to go to achieve them. This is Theron at the very top of her game, and it’s a testament to her performance that she’s able to portray a character who is equal parts ruthless and empathetic.
This can be said of all the female characters as well, who are able to defy expectations and cliches in a profoundly refreshing way. They’re the real heroes of the movie, as they’re the ones who get things done and give Max any reason to fight at all.
That’s not to say Max isn’t a great character in his own right, because he is, and I was repeatedly impressed by how Tom Hardy was able to convey so much complexity in so few words. Indeed, Max himself has very few lines in the movie, and relies more on his actions to reveal his character and intentions.
It also doesn’t hurt that Hardy and Theron work incredibly well together, and watching as the two of them learn to rely on each other as equals is one of the film’s best qualities. Fury Road takes two equally conflicted, and dangerous, individuals and in two hours makes them such captivating characters that I couldn’t help but want more.
The rest of the cast also fare incredibly well, and while you’d be hard-pressed to find a stranger and more diverse cast of characters, they make a lasting impression with the screen time they’re given. The most notable here is obviously the villain of the piece, the disgustingly vile Immortan Joe, who also has very little dialogue, and yet is quickly developed as an antagonist who is very easy to hate.
He’s not the most complex of characters, unfortunately, as there isn’t a whole lot to him beyond his frightening appearance, but rather it’s his minions who nearly steal the spotlight from him. His appropriately named ‘War Boys’ may all look similar, with they’re sickly pale skin and bald heads, but they proved to be surprisingly unique.
This is especially true for Nicholas Hoult’s character Nux, a fiercely loyal member of Immortan Joe’s crew who personally tasks himself with taking down Max and Furiosa. Hoult is great in the role, and seeing him in such a different environment was a lot of fun, especially in the final act of the film where he gets some of the film’s most sincere character development.
The Five Wives traveling with Furiosa, who were held captive by Immortan Joe for years, also proved to be far more than just eye-candy, as they’re just as capable as either Max or Furiosa, albeit with less experienced. The acting was strong all around, as each one of them was given enough time to develop and grow in their own ways.
I do have a couple of issues with Fury Road, however, but they’re minor ones. The major one comes from some of Max’s dialogue, which looks almost dubbed as the words don’t match up with Hardy’s mouth at all. Maybe this is a side-effect of his gravelly tone or frequent mumbling, but it was distracting nonetheless, and pulled me out of the experience a few times too many.
The pace is also relentless, and borders on the extreme at times because of the sheer amount of chaos that is constantly assaulting your senses. It never comes across as excessive, once again thanks to Miller’s flawless direction, but there is very little breathing space amidst all the action.
By the time the credits began to roll, however, all I wanted to do was buy another ticket to watch it again. Mad Max: Fury Road is a gorgeously directed action movie fueled by breathtaking practical effects, pure adrenaline, and the occasional bit of heavy metal courtesy of a flaming guitar. It’s a nearly flawless action movie that just about puts its competition to shame, and could very easily become the highlight of the summer.