Friday, May 15, 2015

A Reel Review - MAD MAX: FURY ROAD

It has taken writer/director George Miller nearly 30 years to bring the 4th entry of his MAD MAX franchise to the big screen, and in that time mainstream filmmaking, with a few notable exceptions has changed a lot; studios run by corporate suits lazily greenlight remakes and reboots while lowballing the budget…forcing directors to over-rely on CGI graphics and artificial environments. Miller’s MAD MAX: FURY ROAD is a spit, slap, punch, middle-finger, and kick to the face of the current system and to the world as a whole…but even a rebel has to deliver a good film. 

In a post-apocalyptic world, Max Rockatansky (Tom Hardy) escapes from the clutches of the ruling tyrant Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne) and his army of bloodthirsty War Boys. Max escapes with Furiosa (Charlize Theron), who has betrayed Joe by smuggling his five wives out of his citadel…leading them all on a mad chase across the desert. 

Less of a reboot or remake and instead the 4th adventure of Max, FURY ROAD’s plot mostly consists of a two-hour chase scene across the desert wastelands. As Max and Furiosa thunder away with the helpless women in a bastardized tanker-truck, they are relentlessly pursued by Joe and his army; a chase which is composed of countless cars, trucks, and motorcycles turned war machines with metal spikes, machine guns, explosives, and blunt blades…which leads to sequence after endless sequence of smashing, dodging, colliding, shooting, punching, kicking, and mad fucking destruction all over the goddamn place…topped off with even more spikey vehicles, and a flame-throwing guitar backed by a thunderous and rhythmic sweeping soundtrack leading to some of the most fucked-up looking characters and scenes you’ll ever see on film.

So what does all that madness amount to besides an endless barrage of furious sights and sounds? Quite a lot, actually. This is a world devastated by nuclear war; food and water are scarce and what there is of it is controlled tightly by Immortan Joe, who is content with starving his followers and using them to breed his army. Max and Furiosa know they can’t save this world, nor is there anything out there that could save it, but in whisking the wives away from Joe, they can only bring them and the rest of the starving people…something that at least feels like hope. Amidst all the carnage and noise, director George Miller finds a very human element and sticks with it. 

FURY ROAD does not feel like a film made by a 70 year old man now in his fifth decade of filmmaking. The action is pedal-to-the-metal spectacle and there’s barely enough time to process what just happened before the film has moved onto the next event. Miller shows a great amount of energy and ambition here, and with minimal dialogue and a grand control of the vast landscapes that he is working with…FURY ROAD is mind-blowing from the first frame. The film is gorgeous to look at; the deserts of North Africa have never looked so beautiful and deadly. CGI is used sparingly and is never relied upon like a crutch, but instead enhances scenes where necessary. The massive amount of vehicles which look like they were cobbled together from whatever could be found in a scrapyard are awesome to see, and even more impressive considering they actually built the fucking things, and then drove and smashed and blew them up all over the desert. The commitment to practical effects and stuntwork is a joy to see, and is not only a throwback to the 1970’s or 1980’s, but is incredibly ambitious enough that it sets a new spectacular bar in filmmaking. 

Tom Hardy slips right into the role of Max with ease. With little dialogue to deal with, Hardy does most of his acting and communicating with his body, eyes, and face…and it is always effective. As a continuation of the series, Hardy’s Max has a tortured past and he carries it well. Charlize Theron is a great match for Hardy and has to do the most physical work she’s ever done. The show is nearly stolen by Nicholas Hoult, who plays a War Boy torn between helping Max and the seductive nature of Immortan Joe. Joe himself, as played by MAD MAX veteran Hugh Keays-Byrne, is a little one-note and spends all of his time behind a mask, but is an awesome sight to see. 

Considering the state of the today's film system, it is a miracle that FURY ROAD even exists, but even more of a miracle that it works so well. Despite all of the carnage and blood, there is an artful quality to it which is the mark of great balance. With so little words spoken, FURY ROAD unspools like a symphony where the sights and sounds drive the story, and it could be shown in a film class as a lesson in editing, pacing, and composition…which makes it a glorious triumph. 


No comments:

Post a Comment

A few rules:
1. Personal attacks not tolerated.
2. Haters welcome, if you can justify it.
3. Swearing is goddamn OK.