In a cinematic landscape littered with reboots, sequels, prequels, reimaginings, origin stories, spin offs and rip offs, the news of a new Mad Max film was met with comparatively little excitement. The original film and sequels were a surprise smash hit for writer-director George Miller in the late seventies and early eighties, but many like myself thought that the story had already been told and to make another would be shameless cashing in. But we were proven wrong. So, so wrong.
Fury Road is an insane cacophony of unbelievable action. It is essentially a two-hour chase sequence, but the key is in the detail. Miller manages to not only create a thrilling film, but an entire world around it. Everything from the grotesque appearance of Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne), to the scary, bald, pale soldiers he employs, make Fury Road absolutely terrifying. This combination of horror and action make Fury Road very unusual. Despite the 150 mil budget, George Miller is ignoring the younger demographic that Marvel attracts to make his own unique vision of the future.
What Fury Road does so well here is create this enormous feeling of dread. There are beautiful shots of the dump truck, which Max (Tom Hardy) and Furiosa (Charlize Theron) are driving, being chased by a horrible brown haze in the distance. The desert landscape mean Immortan Joe’s truck army of loud, gas-guzzling obscenities is like a mirage of danger.
Miller uses a mix of extreme close ups and wide shots, similar to Sergio Leone in his spaghetti westerns. But with Miller, everything is dirtier and more frenetic. Leone was the conductor of the orchestra, while Miller was smashing the guitars. The smoke from the vehicles combined with the ever-present dirt and sand makes Fury Road a deranged, dirty epic; an impressionist painting of browns and greys.
Most of the critical attention has centred on the surprising presence of an interesting female character. Charlize Theron plays Furiosa, who despite the film’s title, is the main character. Many have compared her to Sigourney Weaver in Alien but I was reminded more of Clint Eastwood as The Man With No Name. Furiosa has no traditional female qualities. She is almost bald, dirty, and barely speaks, which makes her character even more powerful. Her role is so masculine that her gender is almost forgotten. Nobody ever even mentions that she is a woman. The fact I have to differentiate between traditional male and female roles shows how archaic Hollywood has become. Fury Road is sadly way ahead of its time.
Miller has clearly spent thirty years crafting the fine details of this masterpiece. It is a visceral delight that has outperformed every other action film of recent years. This is like a Roger Corman cult film, blown out of all imaginable proportions with a huge budget. The result is breathtaking. Some are saying it’s the best action film ever made and that is very hard to disagree with.