Monday, May 18, 2015

[Review] Mad Max: Fury Road


After a 30 year gap, George Miller (now in his 70's) whirls out the fourth installment of the Mad Max series, and is it ever overwhelming... overwhelmingly awesome.

Fury Road is a film in which you can hear rusty engines revving up before the first scene even fades in. Deep in a dystopian wasteland where the conditions are even more extreme than where the events last left off, Max (Tom Hardy) is imprisoned by a nasty gang of hoarders. After an exhilarating escape sequence, Max gets himself into a possibly even more unsettling position: chained to the front of a speeding vehicle. Meanwhile, a rogue & natural leader named Furiosa (Charlize Theron) is on the run--with a liberation mission to free a group of wives from their disgusting abuser and ruler of the horde, Immortan Joe (the dude with the creepy mouth mask). The parties collide, and Max and Furiosa don't so much buddy up as they fall into a situation when they both need to use each other. They plan to journey to an assumed oasis called "The Green Place", but the ruthless Immortan Joe is directly on their trail. What unfolds is essentially one giant chase with a few necessary breaks. And those breaks are mostly due to vehicles getting stuck in the unforgiving terrain.

What's so striking about the film is the uniformly frenzied aesthetic, from the hodgepodge rigs, to the on-the-verge-of-death makeup work, to the jagged grease warrior attire--all amidst the drought brown tones. With all the busyness stuffed into the frame, visual flairs of jittery fast-forward effects are injected--conceiving some imagery that is reminiscent of seminal silent films like Metropolis and Man on the Moon. There's a lot of post-apocalyptic ugliness here, but it is gorgeously shot and furiously choreographed. We witness setpiece on setpiece on setpiece. A standout is a pedal-to-the-metal chase through a colossal sandstorm filled with tornados (and lightning), and it literally takes your breath away. Everything is so relentlessly aggressive and operatic. And just in case things weren't already loud enough, there's a guy strapped to a tower of amps slamming on a flamethrower guitar to fill out the volume. It all seems like a fever dream come true for George Miller.

Fury Road isn't just a pulverizing mindless action flick. Okay, it's mostly a pulverizing action flick, but it isn't really mindless, and it doesn't just all blur together--even considering the constant kinetic energy of gears grinding and wheels spinning. The fight scenes are so crisp and well-designed, and the gutsy stunts & kill shots render the events as consistently gripping and memorable. The narrative takes a classically structured path, and we care about these characters' well-being as each close call grows more intense than the other. Tom Hardy is stoic & charismatic, and his voice sounds pretty damn cool as he calmly delivers small bits of wisdom. But he sort of takes the passenger seat in favor of a remarkably kickass Charlize Theron (who seems like she was barely shown in the trailer), as her character is the center of the quest, like a queen on the rise that doesn't necessarily want to be labeled as a queen. Nicholas Hoult also delivers a deliriously cartoony turn--Gollum-esque, even.

It's best not to put too much investment into the hype that the film is receiving, and just let it ride. Fury Road isn't a film that will appeal to everyone, but its sheer execution is undeniably something to behold. During certain sequences I was thinking to myself: How the hell did they film that? So if this is straight up your avenue, you're sure to get maximum enjoyment out of it.

WHAT A LOVELY DAY!

* 10/10 *

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