The term ‘masterpiece’ gets thrown around a lot. You often hear it or read it in a review and you roll your eyes thinking, ‘Oh yeah, here’s a critic who is part of the franchise’s fandom. Nice biased review there, buddy.’ Let me be clear, right now at the very start of this review, I am not a crazed Mad Max fan and I will be calling this film a masterpiece. Mad Max: Fury Road is George Miller’s masterpiece.
Miller takes us back to a familiar post-apocalyptic desert landscape that is the home for our lone-wolf hero Max Rockatansky (Tom Hardy), a ronin who, much like everyone else, is trying to survive in this desolate wasteland. He is, by chance, thrown together with rogue war-machine driver Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron), who is smuggling to safety the escaped wives of their tribe’s tyrannous leader Immortan Joe. This sets the scene for an epic chase to escape their pursuers and reach a green utopia.
It has been 30 years since the iconic Mad Max was on screens, with all three previous films seeing Mel Gibson in the titular role. His performances portrayed Max as a mumbling anti-hero, haunted by the death of his wife and son. Tom Hardy’s 2015 Mad Max pays great homage to that – he is a man of few words, very brooding and haunted by the death of his wife and daughter. It is this tumultuous past that is vital for the character of Max to pursue redemption, helping Furiosa and the escaped wives to avoid the fates bestowed on his lost loved ones. Charlize Theron owns the screen with her fierce Furiosa, the strong female lead stealing the film from Hardy with ease. Nicholas Hoult has fun with his supporting character Nux, a tag-along who becomes an integral part of the band of misfit escapees. Notable is Hugh Keays-Byrne, who you may remember as Toecutter from the original Mad Max, playing the evil Immortan Joe. This larger-than-life crazed villain is a brilliant throwback to bad guys from decades past; visually striking with his fearsome teeth-baring face-mask, this is Miller’s Darth Vader and it is a whole heap of fun to hate. Throw in some cameos from Aussie actors such as John Howard, Angus Sampson and Quentin Kenihan, not to mention a few supermodels-turned-actresses and you have a lot of people on-screen hamming it up in the best possible way.
George Miller’s vision is breathtaking to see come alive on the big screen. The locations are vast and endless, with Namibia giving enough familiarity to resemble the deserts in the first films, while still giving audiences new terrains to explore. The cars are beastly pieces of production design that are a credit to those who worked on them behind the scenes; spiked, monstrously big, fast and deadly, they take the designs from previous films and make them their bitch. While Miller has been quoted as calling Mad Max: Fury Road an “analogue” film, and it most certainly is with its mind-blowing stunts being performed mostly in-camera, it is quite often the analogue pairing with digital landscapes that makes the movie so jaw-droppingly beautiful to behold. A sequence in the first act that sees a chase continue into an electric sandstorm is the perfect fusion of in-camera effects and CGI and should be the measuring stick that we use to judge all other action sequences from here onwards. Do not be surprised if you find yourself sitting in your cinema seat, eyes wide and mouth agape, absolutely stunned at how amazing this film looks.
Mad Max: Fury Road is grand, operatic and uncompromisingly brutal. It is the gritty action film that audiences have been begging for and it delivers in spades. Fans of the original films may say that it’s “too over the top” but franchises evolve and this is what a Mad Max film in 2015 should look like. George Miller has delivered a ferocious and timeless cinematic masterpiece that will always be proudly displayed on the mantle of Australian cinema. Warmly paying homage to its predecessors, while firmly placing itself as the new benchmark in action cinema, this is a film that needs to be seen on the big screen. Again and again.
Mad Max: Fury Road is in cinemas today!