Mad Max: Fury Road (2015) excels on all cylinders
|Photo Credit: Mad Max Fury Road / Warner Bros Pictures|
Across a dry, broken wasteland, we are thrust into a good ole fashion cat-and-mouse chase. But this showdown isn't an ode to Tom and Jerry cartoons. Dropkicked into a post-apocalyptic world, desert buries any semblance of society as we know it. Gas and water are the new currency, and everyone has gone mad.
Immortan Joe is a ruthless God whose followers worship the steering wheel, imprison innocent people to be his blood donors, and will do anything to reach immortality. Straddled to huge trucks are his furious warriors on teetering poles and done-up battle cars. Their war songs blare from flame-throwing guitar players and drummers. Rebels Max (Tom Hardy), Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron) and Joe's precious brides try to outrun his troupe through onslaughts of motorcycle mavens, dictators of other territories, and the barren environment that's destroyed everything.
Tucked inside all of the heart-pounding action are inviting moments of insight into our heroes. Max suffers nightmares and hallucinations of his former life filled with unspeakable terrors, and Furiosa dares to return to her childhood land to gain a little redemption. Escaping Joe's tyranny is the first step to a "better" quality of survival, but then it becomes something more; a mutual pact of trust, respect, trying to help the other find a place to call home, even if that isn't tangible. Beyond the action is a band of lost souls meeting in the middle to find stability and atonement in the sand-like ashes of this wretched domain.
The cast conveys so much with so little dialogue. The seamless choreography is ingrained into the production with the stunts but also the casts' performances. There's no doubt that Hardy will become an even bigger star since it's his (debatable) break-out role in Inception. Theron, quite simply, is a perfect storm on the brink of imploding or exploding; complex, raw, and fierce. And, the women, also known as the Breeders, and Nux (a worshiper of Joe's), aren't reduced to meek background players. Each brought their own strengths to a team that bonds, not easily, but with steady confidence against a barbarous villain.
Most of the film thrives on adrenaline between Max and Furiosa attempting to leave Joe and his merry men behind in the dust. This reboot is flashy, but its appearance offers more than what meets the eye. Not only does the story trust us to go on its wild ride, the special effects are just not for eye candy; each slice of action is impressive stunt-wise and propels the wickedness. Explosions are exciting, but he allows enough space and screen-time to absorb what's going on, even if sometimes it feels overwhelming to comprehend the magnitude of its madness.
Good guys versus bad guys are the big draw for action films, and many can be filled with cliches or violence for violence sake and/or weak characters. A balance of both male and female characters that aren't held back or down is often what's missing for movies that just want to parade bullets firing on all cylinders without a strong context. Max Max: Fury Road is high-velocity opera set in the West boosting its characters and fans into high gear for nearly two hours. Even if Max may be the title of the film, it's really everyone's show. And it's all very, maddeningly, kick-assingly, lovely.