In a post apocalyptic future world gone mad, Max (Tom Hardy) struggles to maintain his sanity and survive. When he is captured by a tribe of cultist death worshippers, he is set on an inexorable collision course with Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron), who is seeking to rob her master, Immortan Joe, of his most prized assets – his brides.
It’s been 36 years since George Miller introduced the world to Max Rockatansky, the former policeman who embarks on a vengeful rampage against the biker gang who brutally killed his wife and son. It has also been a good 30 years since the third instalment, Beyond Thunderdome brought us matching Tina Turner/Mel Gibson hairstyles and the memorable Turner track, We Don’t Need Another Hero.
Needless to say, there’s been plenty of water under the bridge since then or, more correctly, a lot of sand. After all, Max’s world is a desert wasteland where control of water brings power. It is this power that Evil Villain Supremo, Immortan Joe, wields over his people. Appropriately enough, he’s also brainwashed the populace and his henchmen into a pseudo-Viking religious system of belief, where dying upon the altar of war is truly the greatest honour.
It is this fervour that spurs the team of crazies across the desolate wasteland in pursuit of Charlize Theron’s Imperator Furiosa, as the movie clicks into overdrive. And overdrive is the key word here, because this is a chase movie of note. Once Fury Road gets going, the pace is relentless, pausing only briefly between scenes to take a breather, before hurtling again on to the next action sequence.
Of course, the action is where a movie like this lives and dies. Rest assured, in that sense, it is a masterpiece. The level of imagination and visual spectacle on offer is simply astounding. If not properly executed, action can become paradoxically boring; a whirl of flashing images and noise with no purpose other than to fool the viewer into believing they are witnessing something electric. Well, the bar has been raised once more. Every fight, every moment of destruction, is lavished with detail and seamless cohesion.
As our own Managing Editor, Francesca Barbini, observed, many of the acrobatic action scenes featuring the Borderlands-like loons, are akin to Cirque Du Soleil on acid. And that sense of the hyper-enhanced, like an impossible, magnificent mirage, informs every frame of Fury Road. To try describe it would be both an injustice and insufficient. This is grand spectacle at it’s best and deserves to be witnessed on the largest scale possible.
Staying with the visuals, this is indeed an unusual and surprising beast. Because it’s not all about the bang and wallop. There’s more to it than that. It is at times like gazing upon a fevered, chaotic work of modern art, rendered against a backdrop of silken, stunning oil-painting landscape. Perhaps the starkest example of this is one scene in particular, where an anguished Furiosa sinks to her knees. Wind gusts and sand swirls evocatively around her, imbuing the moment with an added sense of gravitas and emotion, as if the elements themselves are crying out, lamenting the world left behind.
It would be easy for the central players then to find themselves lost in amongst it all, mere cyphers in the maelstrom unfolding around them. Indeed, one wonders if Tom Hardy has a thing for constrictive masks. Early on, he is quite literally muzzled, harking to his turn in The Dark Knight Rises – Max Bane, if you like. And this really is a literal representation of his role in the first half of the piece, as he takes a back seat while the madness ensues.
It is here that Charlize Theron takes centre stage. Thank goodness that Miller opted for an effectively cast, and wholly equal, foil to Hardy’s wounded alpha male. The film world, and fiction in general, is too often guilty of casting its female protagonists as not much more than sex objects. Theron is no scantily clad warrior woman though, destined to fall head over heels for Max in the end. The relationship between the two is informed less by lust than a mutual realisation that they are both irrevocably scarred, but scrapping despite this to drag some semblance of humanity from the savagery.
There are downsides however – as there usually are. Principal among these, funnily enough, is the interplay between Max and Furiosa. The shift in their relationship, from one extreme to the other, is slightly jarring and more than a little unbelievable. It’s too sudden. Perhaps there was a middle point somewhere in there that ended up on the cutting room floor. Hardy’s odd accent and vocal stylings too (rare as they are) are almost comical at times.
Nitpicking aside, this is a recommended watch. Like the ghosts of Max’s deceased family, Fury Road is a movie that lingers in the mind, springing unexpectedly to the forefront of thought as any one of its multitude of haunting visuals invade the consciousness. It’s no Lawrence of Arabia but it is, regardless, truly a movie for the ages.