I have never seen a film quite like this: a hyperkinetic, utterly relentless aural and visual onslaught that somehow never runs out of gas. George Miller’s postapocalyptic action spectacle is a thrilling summer movie if ever there was one, and demands to be viewed on the largest screen possible (if it’s between this and “Age of Ultron,” see “Fury Road”). The aesthetic is almost indescribable: a grungy ultra-saturated color palette coupled with outlandishly stylized dieselpunk vehicle design (for reference, it looks a lot like something pulled from the “Warhammer 40,000” franchise). This is not the near-future outback of the first “Mad Max” film: it’s a blasted alien wasteland bearing only the faintest resemblance to modern earth.
As the movie opens, wandering rogue Max Rockatansky (Tom Hardy) is taken captive by hideous warlord Immortan Joe. He soon finds himself fleeing Immortan’s citadel alongside the mysterious Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron) and Immortan’s defiant concubines. Naturally, a hot pursuit results – one that eventually draws in multiple warring factions, extends through sandstorms and firestorms, and results in massive amounts of destruction.
It’s worth noting up front that this film is essentially one very long car chase, but an exceptionally well-paced one (in the tradition of all good chase movies, Miller allows for downtime between giant action setpieces). The simple linearity of its plot is a breath of fresh air, given the recent Hollywood tendency to favor overloaded reboots crammed with worldbuilding exposition (see: “Man of Steel,” “Quantum of Solace”). Where “survive” is the sole imperative, the stakes are consistently clear.
And where vehicular warfare is concerned, “Fury Road” tops even the “Fast and Furious” franchise in raw bravura. These big rigs are all fitted with “Ben Hur”-type anti-vehicle gadgetry (exploding spears and harpoons, buzz saws, machine guns, etc.): at no point is plausibility even attempted. The onscreen mayhem is backed by a genuinely fantastic musical score, which runs the gamut from electro-rock to tribal drumming to classical.
Hardy inhabits his role with suitable gravitas, but this is ultimately Theron’s film: in the midst of the unending carnage, Furiosa manages to emerge as a complex, multifaceted character with realistic motivations. Along these lines, some commentators have described “Fury Road” as a feminist film, but this is an incorrect descriptor: it’s less an overt sociocultural statement than a refusal to rely on old stereotypes (Immortan’s concubines, for instance, spend more time fighting back than cowering in terror). It’s a nice departure from standard tropes, and helps “Fury Road” never feel paint-by-numbers.
At the end of the day, “Fury Road” is not an Oscar-level drama (though, for what it’s worth, the makeup effects are great). Instead of existential angst, this movie features a flamethrowing guitar with sword blades attached to it. That sums up “Fury Road” quite nicely.
An extravagant, gleefully over-the-top adventure for the adrenaline junkie set. Highly recommended.
Normalized Score: 5.8