Mad Max: Fury Road is an Australian-American post-apocalyptic action film directed, produced, and co-written by George Miller. It is the fourth film in the Mad Max franchise, starring Tom Hardy as the title character Max Rockatansky, and Charlize Theron as Imperator Furiosa. Following a catastrophic nuclear war, the world is a desert wasteland where gasoline and water are rare commodities. Max, a lone survivor, is captured by the War Boys, members of Immortan Joe’s army — a tyrannical cult leader whose seat of power is a citadel with access to fresh water and agriculture. After being deemed a universal blood donor for War Boys in need, Max gets caught up in the pursuit of Imperator Furiosa. She is one of Joe’s higher ranked officers who betrays him by attempting to smuggle his harem of wives — selected for breeding — away from his citadel.
I have to admit, it was buzz and acclaim that pushed me to make sure I saw this movie sooner rather than later. While I’ve been aware of the Mad Max franchise and understand some references in passing, I’ve never watched an entry prior to Fury Road. I’m quite pleased that I was as blown away as I was with this movie, despite having no nostalgic connection or hype for it — being the fourth iteration of a well-known franchise. Fury Road stands phenomenally well on its own, which it really needed to do since it has been 30 years since the previous film. If having not watched previous films is holding your back, I confidently assure you that they are not prerequisites for this film.
What I found to be so great about how the story plays out is that it really takes advantage of the medium. While it is often commonplace for there to be a lot of expository dialogue for world building, Fury Road does a great job of showing the audience the information they need rather than telling them. While there are a number of instances that I could use as examples, one that stood out to me in particular was the introduction of our villain Immortan Joe.
Joe’s appearance throughout almost the entirety of the film is that of a grotesque colossus that walked off of a heavy metal album cover. Despite this, what the audience is treated to when he is introduced is a sickly-looking man donning his regalia, armour, and breathing apparatus in the safety of his stronghold. His power and influence is at many points greatly demonstrated, but this scene established from the onset his mortality and fallibility. Despite his larger than life appearance he is a sick man, and he needs this performance of power and formidability to maintain his hold over people, especially his indoctrinated War Boys. He is not as powerful as he appears, but none of this is explained to us with words: we are simply shown.
Across the board, characters are fantastically written and performed. As has been lauded by many already, Theron is outstanding as Furiosa. While Max is the vehicle for the audience in the story, Furiosa shares the spotlight as a protagonist and in many ways steals the show. What I most appreciated is how the film doesn’t fall into the trappings of portraying her as a stereotypical “action girl.” While other instances may overplay such a character’s abilities and attitude — as if overcompensating — Furiosa feels perfectly natural in her role. She is confident, capable, and ruthless when she needs to be, but can still emote and show vulnerability during more quiet moments, as a well-rounded character should.
I enjoyed Max in his role as vehicle for the audience as well. From what I understand, it is commonplace in the franchise (excluding the original) for him to become caught up in the stories of other people as he wanders the wastelands, and this film stays in keeping with that idea. It has a strong Wild West feel to it that makes Max appear larger than life, even if he might be crazier than the explosive-chucking maniacs driving cars made out of other cars. It wasn’t his story, but his presence always felt important and he was never marginalized.
The action sequences are enjoyable throughout, in a way that I didn’t know was possible. The film is very much one long chase, but at no point did it feel tired or overdone. I gave the third Hobbit film similar praise, but I now feel I may have been a little too generous. While I found the almost continuous action in that film to be inoffensive at its lowest points, I was absorbed in Fury Road completely. The over-the-top style of the film is worth noting as well. It is full of ludicrous imagery, characters, and vehicle designs that are a joy to behold. While often humorous in how ridiculous they can be, these aspects are always in line with the well-established madness that flavours the experience.
There’s not much else I can say about Mad Max: Fury Road, except that I adored it. Unless you don’t have the stomach for the action genre in any context, you owe it to yourself to see it.