Mad Max: Fury Road - Cinema Review

mad max fury road review
'a film which suggests that studios have not yet given up on trusting auteurs to produce gloriously demented genre takes. There is hope for us all.'

There's a lot to love about George Miller's return to the Mad Max franchise, not least the fact that, somehow, a film produced by a major studio in 2015 has managed to capture the outsider values of Miller's original film, and maintain those values through a two hour runtime. Mad Max: Fury Road is a little miracle in that respect, a film which suggests that studios have not yet given up on trusting auteurs to produce gloriously demented genre takes. There is hope for us all.

That fact alone, for me, is not reason enough to call Fury Road a 'modern classic', though I can see why some value it as such. It would be pertinent to describe it as a breath of fresh air to the Action genre, but then that description is rather at odds with the putrid wasteland Miller creates. Make no bones though: this is different, different from any Action cinema you've seen in the last few years. The Raid might have had inventive choreography, but Fury Road has the evidence of years spent annihilating what we accept as mainstream Action, and the dirt under its fingernails to prove it.

It might not be what makes the headlines, but perhaps the most refreshing thing about Miller's creation is his setup. There is none. In the age of origin stories, this could not have been more welcome. Max (Tom Hardy) leaps onto the screen fully formed, running away from and then captured by Immortan Joe's (Hugh Keays-Byrne) group of bad guys. This group and the supporting cast features such character names as Rictus Erectus, The Doof Warrior, Corpus Colossus, The Prime Imperator and others. None of their monikers are explained, few of their characters taken further. It matters not a jot. Miller understands we know Max is the good guy and those chasing him are bad. Anything else is superfluous and jettisoned.

Supporting only in the loosest sense of the word, Charlize Theron plays second lead to Hardy as another impossibly-named dystopia-dweller: Imperator Furiosa. A character likely to live long in the memory, Furiosa has been talked of as near revelatory in the Action canon. Female and disabled (she is missing a forearm), neither of those facts are ever raised as important, plot points or otherwise contributing to the character's agency. Furiosa is shown early on to be at least the match of our hero and, as the narrative progresses, it is her and not Max who drives the plot. There are, admittedly, a collection of damsels in distress (led by another noticeable turn from ZoĆ« Kravitz) for Furiosa and Max to attempt to protect but even they do not react as your atypical Action victims might. This is probably as close as we have come in some time to a genderless film and the fact that the offensive right wing misogynists are apparently up in arms about that should only increase the sense of it being truthful.

Given the importance of several of the points above I can again see why some have forgiven Miller the film's problems, but they are here and they are somewhat distracting. The lack of character painting works well in every regard but one: Max himself. There is a level of assumed good on offer, but there is a point where assumption alone must stop and the audience get chance to see who Max is. Hardy has a startlingly low amount of lines, few of them extending beyond a grumble of assent. The flashbacks of his family work if you've seen the previous films, but this is intended to stand alone and, arguably, there's not enough detail here. There's ultimately little reason to care for Max and it's this that mainly held me back from loving him and the film.

With setup dispensed with it's also surprising that Miller allows Fury Road to extend to a slightly baggy two hours. Several of the pitched desert battles feel near identikit, dulling the visceral thrill of the best moments (though Max whizzing across a scene of carnage, disbelieving, on a twenty foot pendulum pole will not be forgotten any time soon). John Seale's stupendous photography picks out a surprisingly varied palette for an apparently stale landscape, but it is telling that it is in these scenes, and the chases which precede them, where it sometimes feels little of new note is being offered, a critique impossible to level at the film as a whole.

By Sam Turner. Sam is editor of Film Intel, and can usually be found behind a keyboard with a cup of tea. He likes entertaining films and dislikes the other kind. He's on , Twitter and several places even he doesn't yet know about.

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