MAD MAX: FURY ROAD * * * *
Starring Tom Hardy, Charlize Theron, Nicholas Hoult, Zoe Kravitz and Hugh Keays-Byrne. Screenplay by George Miller, Brendan McCarthy and Nico Lathouris. Directed by George Miller.
It’s almost too much.
As you’ve probably already heard by now, Mad Max: Fury Road is an astonishment. This is bold, go-for-broke, visionary filmmaking of such a high order that I’m not really sure where to begin. I should probably just nick my pal Bilge Ebiri’s line that it is “the Sistine Chapel of action movies” and call it an evening, but I’m too revved-up.
You stumble out of the theatre giddy about what films can do, transported by the breathtaking kineticism – the simple lizard-brained joy of images in motion placed next to one another with such harebrained velocity in a battering ram of a picture that just goes, goes, goes and then keeps on going. I’m a little bit exhausted here just writing about it. And also ecstatic.
This movie is fucking nuts.
If you are somehow a stranger to the previous three pictures in director George Miller’s cockamamie post-apocalyptic serial, fear not. (Except we probably can’t be friends anymore.) There’s no real continuity here for nerds to obsess upon in this series, just multiple re-workings of similar themes, with some of the same cast members turning up again in different roles like Sergio Leone westerns. Every Mad Max movie is built to stand like the protagonist: alone.
Max Rockantasky (formerly Mel Gibson, now Tom Hardy) was a cop once, way back when the world made sense. Now he wanders the wastelands in his revved-up Interceptor, which is rudely flipped in a two-lane battle shortly after we find Max thoughtfully chewing on a lizard, wondering where does the time go.
He’s eventually taken captive and used as “a bloodbag” in a ruined patriarchal oasis, as big bad Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne, who played Toecutter in the first film) hoards resources to a point where he’s siphoning the blood of hostages to keep his irradiated albino foot-soldiers alive, harvesting women’s breast-milk so he can feed his flock, and periodically showering the huddled masses with dirty water. Miller drops us into this nightmare without a word of exposition, showing and never telling a barbaric civilization that’s not worth saving.
Enter Furiosa. Played by a shaven-headed and robot-armed Charlize Theron, she’s busy secretly smuggling Immortan Joe’s harem of wives outta town when she stumbles upon Max. It takes her awhile to figure out he’s down for the feminist cause.
Then good Christ, holy crap.
Fury Road is relentless. It’s insane. At heart this is a movie about people just trying to get from one place to another, but it becomes The Odyssey. Immortan Joe’s cabal of radiation-poisoned circus-freaks are laboring under the delusion they can go to Valhalla, spray-painting their teeth and screaming “Witness Me!” like the last gasp of suicide bombers.
This is a big summer blockbuster about how men have destroyed the planet with their territorial pissings and how psychotic religious beliefs have poisoned the lives of young boys, so the only way to get sane is via this picture’s socialist army of old Lily Tomlins bearing seeds instead of guns.
I still can’t believe George Miller got away with this. It’s bonkers and lefty. Totally gonzo and one of the best-directed movies I have ever seen.
We don’t need another hero, because look what those did to this fucking place.