Define Hollywood Courage: The same filmmaker revisiting a franchise thirty years after the less than impressive last instalment and recasting it’s original, at the time, iconic star. George Miller apparently had the inspiration for a new Mad Max while crossing the street one day, presumably in heavy traffic like a game of Frogger (look it up kids!). So Mad Max: Fury Road was going to star Mel Gibson but, thanks at the time to the actor’s blossoming directorial career and more recently finding himself becoming casting Kryptonite, Miller turned to a more stronger silent type in Tom Hardy. The results demonstrate that while they don’t make them like they used to George Miller does.
As with previous Mad Max movies Fury Road’s plot is secondary to its action. But it essentially follows Max (Hardy) as he is first taken captive by Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne) before escaping and banding together with Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron) who is trying to return to her homeland. The problem is Furiosa has also liberated Joe’s five wives so, with the help of his War Boys, gives chase. With one of the War Boys, Nux (Nicholas Hoult) taken hostage by Max the two parties find themselves in a road war to the death.
While we are being bombarded by endless CGI superheroes it turns to the old school filmmakers like Miller and Ridley Scott to demonstrate how to tell a real story on a huge, blockbusting scale. Fury Road’s plot might be simple but its characterisation is gripping and the action is unrivalled in recent cinematic memory. So blistering are the opening forty or so minutes of Mad Max: Fury Road that when there finally is a pause you’ll find yourself gasping for breath.
It’s the kind of vehicular carnage that has 12-year-olds squealing for joy and the rest of us fist-bumping ourselves in our heads. But more than anything it is the investment in Max and Furiosa that hooks you on to Fury Road and drags you along, like Indian beneath that truck, for its two-hour running time. Hardy’s Max is brilliantly stoic and wonderfully cool when the proverbial hits the fan. It’s the kind of performance that Gibson hinted at in the first two Mad Max films but in truth never sold on the level Hardy does. Hoult shows another side to his acting talent that should, and hopefully will, open up a host of new casting options for the British actor. His Nux is a hysterical blend of manic yet always human. Of the wives Rosie Hunting-Whiteley takes special credit. Having flattered to do anything but totter around in heels in the last Transformer’s movie here she demonstrates she has a strength and resolve to her screen presence which will hopefully be utilised in the future rather than having her as merely the damsel screaming as she falls off yet another building.
But the emotional thumping heart of Fury Road is burnt into the tarmac by the always-reliable Theron. Her Furiosa is a thunderous leading lady, able to give any character, especially Max, a run for their money. She’s part fierce mother, part kick-ass queen. So strong and magnetic is her character that you could happily sit through a spin-off franchise, she’s more than worthy of Mad Max’s former title; The Road Warrior.
An octane fuelled break-neck thrill ride, Mad Max: Fury Road is a staggering piece of cinematic action extravagance.