There is no watching this film passively. Mad Max: Fury Road is a merciless onslaught on your eyes, ears and any sense of calm or complacency you may have had before deciding to see it.
Veteran Mad Max director George Miller straps both us and the saga’s hero Max Rockatansky (a subdued and mostly muted Tom Hardy) to the front of a screaming convoy of mercenaries and warlords wielding machine guns, explosive spears and fire-breathing 12-string guitars.
Chief warlord Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne) withholds water from thousands of survivors of an apocalypse which left earth a desert-ridden wasteland. Rig driver Furiosa (Charlize Theron) steals away with half a dozen of his brides, played by Victoria Secret model Rosie Huntington-Whiteley among others. Seeking greener pastures, they are forced to trust Max as they are pursued through the desert by Joe’s frenzied band of loyal followers, including an almost unrecognizable Nicholas Hoult (X-Men, Warm Bodies).
There is no good, there is no bad, there’s no over-arching morality tale to distract from the action – Mad Max is about a society “reduced to one single instinct – survive.” In a world where oil and water are almost all anyone thinks about, self-preservation is what drives the survivors and it makes for a hell of a chase.
Explosions, upended cars, sandstorms, grappling-hooks – there is no time to look away as villain after villain come after Furiosa and her crew. Mad Max: Fury Road, sparing few moments to breathe, is almost entirely a singular, densely-choreographed road pursuit designed to pump the adrenaline that will absorb all your focus over its two hour running time.
Furiosa is easily the most appealing character in the film. Kidnapped from her home as a child and sporting one mechanical arm, Theron’s performance as the relentless heroine – one of the few seeking redemption for the life she’s led, by freeing Joe’s choice breeders – carries much of the film. Evoking memories ofAlien’s Ellen Ripley, Furiosa is a resolved, hardened warrior, displaying a sense of selflessness and purpose wanting in the bleak future, endearing to both her rescuees and everyone watching safely from their comfy seats.
Max, on the other hand, is comparatively boring. Sparing few words and expressing even less emotion, Hardy’s humourless portrayal of Max is neither cool for its nonchalance, nor is it intriguing in his perceived passivity for everything imploding around him. Hardy, an immensely talented actor, struggles with an oft-changing accent and a role in which a varied and multi-talented performer is woefully required to be terminally understated. Had Hardy remained mute throughout, it would not have made a huge difference and might have added to the mystery of his character – instead, carrying the drama falls not to the eponymous lead, but to Furiosa and those she meets along the road.
The latest entry to the Mad Max universe is a cacophonous thrill-ride supplanted from Miller’s head, relying significantly on visual effects over CGI to create as real an experience on screen of that which could be dreamed up in his motley mind of ever-escalating spectacles.
As far as action goes, George Miller’s mind is the place to be.