Mad Max: Fury Road is one of the most gonzo, go-for-broke, all-hell-breaks-loose action films I have ever seen. And I have seen a few. This film, from George Miller who created Mad Max and the world he survives in more than 30 years ago, is as fresh, raw, real, and gutsy as any action film produced in the last several years.
In Fury Road, Miller produces a world so complete that Wes Anderson is jealous. In fact, this movie is like Wes Anderson and Terry Gilliam fell in love on the set of David Lynch's Dune, had a baby, peed on it, and left it to be raised by a pack of feral dogs who loved the chase scene from The Blues Brothers a little too much. From the costumes to the unbelievable vehicles to the practical stunts, this movie delivers.
The movie shoves us into this world with no preamble or explanation. What we need to know we can figure out as we race along. Immortan Joe, the vilainous warlord, is both pure evil and utterly disgusting. Furiosa, played by Charlize Theron, is damaged goods but also more balls than another character in the movie. She risks her life to save Joe's captive "birthing wives," casting her lot with theirs as they race to a long-unseen "green land." Tom Hardy's Max is more gutteral than Mel Gibson's version. Less soulful, more empty. Perhaps that is an evolution as Max has been solo for far too long. He has no one to trust, no one to talk to, no one to care about. He is as much of an outsider as one can get and he is unapologetic about his desire to stay that way.
The plot of the film is thin - a here to there and back chase scene. But the visual punch and artistry on display throughout the film is truly impressive. Character design, make up, production design, editing, practical visual effects, and music are all top notch. As Joe and his unholy entourage chase Furiosa and Max across an open desert in their death machines, Joe has the foresight to also bring a truck laden with enormous speakers and a heavy metal guitarist dangling from chains. A great laugh in the film comes when the guitarist, who has been sleeping, is awoken and immediately begins shredding. This is that kind of movie.
Furiosa owns the movie. Not only due to her total bad-assery, but because as a character she has a future. She wants for something. She has plans or hopes or dreams. She can imagine a life with her in it and wants to get to that place. Max, on the other hand, is totally empty. He is merely motion or reflex. He reacts and responds. He knows he doesn't want to die and doesn't want to be a living blood IV drip for one of Joe's "Kill Boys," but he definitely doesn't have anything to live for. He is just passing through.
I already look forward to the next time he passes through - and I hope that Furiosa comes along for the ride.