17 May 2015

FILM: Mad Max: Fury Road

review by Rob Manns

30 years after “Mad” Max Rockatansky battled his way beyond Thunderdome, he’s back with a new face and variable accent. Mad Max : Fury Road is a triumphant return to the big screen for the most iconic of Australian cinematic heroes.

Acclaimed director George Miller, now hitting his 70s, shows that age certainly hasn’t wearied him or dulled his talent. Fury Road is every bit as exciting, brutal and bleak as the original trilogy he brought us between 1979 and 1985. This time though, it’s also incredibly beautiful to look at. Ridley Scott once said that his aim was that you could pause his movies at almost any point and see a gorgeous, artistic photograph. Miller has achieved this goal with the help of fellow Queenslander, cinematographer John Seale. The gold of the desert sands and vivid blue of the skies create a unique canvas for the chaos to play out on. It is as beautiful as it is barren. I’m confident the Academy will agree come Oscar time.

Staying with Miller for a moment, the action scenes in this movie really need to be seen - on a big screen! - to be believed. Featuring the bare minimum of CGI enhancement, the spectacular stunts, human and vehicular alike, play out like a mesmerising ballet of chaos and destruction. Unlike most action directors these days, Miller lets you see everything that is going on. No epileptic editing and shaky cam here. This is how you do it right!

It’s not just the stunts though, it’s also the wild and weird characters the series is famous for.

Standouts here are the freaky War Boys and their monstrous leader, Immortan Joe - played by Hugh Keays-Byrne who also played lead villain The Toecutter in the original Mad Max. They are repulsive but you can’t look away. Like the landscape they inhabit, they are beautiful and terrible at the same time. Everybody’s favourite is the blinded guy who lays down some major heavy metal riffs on a flamethrowing guitar while tethered by a bungee rope to the top of a truck that also sports an enormous stack of speakers and a team of drummers. If that sentence doesn’t bring a smile to your face, you are dead inside. Dead!

And then there’s our leads. Tom Hardy is more than a worthy replacement for Mel Gibson. Bringing the same brooding intensity and toughness as well as the vulnerability. My only criticism is his seeming inability to settle on a single voice. His accent shifts around, a shame as he actually does a decent Strayan accent in the opening monologue, and Bane even creeps in here and there. The film, however, belongs to Charlize Theron as Imperator Furiosa, and her group of women she liberated from Immortan Joe. Furiosa deserves to become as revered as Ellen Ripley as a strong female role model. She kicks ass! All the main women in this film do, including the Many Mothers we meet late in the film. The most wonderful side effect of these characters  is watching MRAs having a big, manly sook about it.

How dare they put strong, competent female characters in a film about an icon of manliness, they say. But then, the whinger who started all of it also referred to the very Australian Mad Max series as a tentpole of American culture, so take from that what you will.

That’s all well and good, you say, but, what about the story? Story? You want all that and a story too? Have you ever seen one of these films? The plot is wafer thin but, where that is normally a weakness, it’s just another of this film's strengths. It really doesn’t need anything beyond a framing device for all the madness. Honestly, it gives you enough to allow the characters a motivation to get from point A to point B and that’s all you need or could want. Fury Road is best described as a 2 hour chase sequence punctuated by occasional moments of stillness to allow you to exhale.

Before I conclude this review, it would be remiss of me not to give a shout out to the incredible soundtrack by Junkie XL. It is just as important and impactful as the landscape and the amazing vehicles and punctuates the visuals perfectly with a mix of electronica, heavy rock and sweeping orchestral moments. Sure, there’s no Tina Turner power ballad but we can’t be greedy now.

So go see this movie on a big screen. See it now! All the gushing reviews you’ve read, this one included, are right. This is an unforgettable cinema experience. It’s the reason we have cinema in the first place and it’s brought to you by a true master of the art form. It’ll never replace Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior in my affections but it is probably the superior film, all things considered.

thanks very much to Rob Manns

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