“High Octane” is seen being forcibly tattooed onto the back of Max Rockatansky (Tom Hardy) in an early scene of Mad Max: Fury Road as part of his new label as a slave “blood bag.” The same tattoo may as well be stamped across the entire film. This fourth Mad Max installment is essentially a nonstop car chase across the post-apocalyptic desert wasteland. There is only a handful of chances to breathe, during the four or five fade-to-black ellipses, before we are thrust back into the merciless, saturated orange of the barren landscape.
Amid the onslaught of cars ripping other cars to shreds and drug-fueled white-painted grunts pitching themselves at other cars with explosive sticks, there is a narrative. Surprising, right? In this wasteland that the world has become, water and arable land is in short supply. One cult-ish leader, Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne), owns the only water well and supply of food for miles. Because of this, he is allowed to enslave hundreds of people, including five beautiful women whom he uses to expand his family tree. When a fuel run led by Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron) veers off course, Immortan Joe realizes that Furiosa is helping his five wives escape from his oppression. Upon this realization, he sends out his army of chrome-huffing followers to chase Furiosa down and return his wives to him unharmed.
From here, the floodgates open like Immortan Joe’s large water spouts and pour sweet sweet mayhem down upon us.
Tom Hardy plays Max differently than his predecessor. He speaks mostly in grumbles. Still, he doesn’t tarnish the famous Aussie’s name. Perhaps this is because, at times, it seems like the film that boasts his name doesn’t center around him at all. Theron’s one-armed emancipator and Nicholas Hoult’s sickly, Stockholm Syndrome-tortured henchman Nux are satisfying characters on their own.
Fury Road is a visual paradise. Theron’s “War Rig” drives toward the impending sandstorm, which conceals within it a world of spectacle. The landscape, as hopeless and empty as it is, pops. The swirling sepia sands are beautiful, yet they are dotted with gritty flashes of pulse-pounding ferocity that inundate the senses. People and car parts shoot in and out of frame. The semi-diegetic score accents the visceral action with pounding bass drums and guitars that oscillate between chugging methodically and wailing erratically.
Fury Road is any action film fan’s wet dream. It is Road Warrior updated for a 21st century audience. The classic Mad Max mythology is held up and enhanced by the stunning visual atmosphere. From a purely visual standpoint, this is one of the best there is. Period.
George Miller’s apocalyptic vision updated for the modern age of cinema is everything fans of Mad Max could have hoped for. It is a 2-hour immersive experience that no action fan can afford to pass up. From the way it looks, sounds, and paces, this movie is unlike anything I’ve ever seen.
Mad Max: Fury Road is currently available to stream on Amazon Instant Video here.
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Have you seen Mad Max: Fury Road? If so, what did you think? Let me know in the comments!
–Alex Brannan (@TheAlexBrannan)