“Rage — Goddess, sing the rage of Peleus’ son Achilles, murderous, doomed, that cost the Achaeans countless losses, hurling down to the House of Death so many sturdy souls.” These are the opening lines of The Illiad, one of the cornerstones of Western literature talking about one of our most basest instincts, rage. Few pieces of art capture that raw emotion in painting, literature, or film. But every now and then you get something special to capture it, you get Mad Max: Fury Road.
Max Rockatanksy (Tom Hardy filling in for a totally bonkers Mel Gibson) roams the nuclear wasteland doing his best to survive and live with some major PTSD of his dead family. Of course he gets roped into a new fun-loving gang of murderous psychotics called the Warboys when he gets kidnapped and turned into a human blood bag for an irradiated soldier named Nux (Nicholas Hoult scarred beyond recognition). Simultaneously Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron) executes a plan to free the wives/breeders of the Warboys’ Leader, Immortan Joe using a big rig armed to the teeth with flamethrowers and guns. Thus Immortan Joe summons up his army including Nux…and by consequence Max who’s turned into a half-IV bag and half hood ornament for the brainwashed soldier.
What follows is a two hour, pulse pounding, adrenaline kicking, car exploding, fever dream chase scene as Furiosa makes a break for freedom and ends up crossing pass with Mad Max. The chase is breathtaking in its scope, tense in its pacing, and basically schools every action movie that has ever existed how to do stunts with cars flawlessly. Cars blow up, people are jumping from truck to car to big rig to motorcycle, and pure chaos erupts on the screen. But there’s focus to the madness, allowing you to appreciate all the jumps and hairpin turns and whenever humans willingly thrash upon the ground like drops in rain. But an action movie without purpose is ultimately meaningless, so we need something to hold on to in order for people to want our heroes to make it out alive.
Fortunately, we do, but from an unlikely source. While Max is the title character, this is really Furiosa’s movie more than anyone else. We mostly follow her perspective of the events of the film and root for her as she tries to complete her mission to save five women who have been turned into property by a psychotic cult warlord. And Charlize Theron carries this movie flawlessly by showing her patience with her rescuees and her tension in needing (not necessarily wanting) to trust Max as well as her determination to make it out alive whatever the cost. She becomes the true embodiment of righteous rage.
Max on the other hand isn’t given as much as Furiosa to do, but Tom Hardy certainly makes the most of it. After all, he has about 30 lines in the whole movie (director’s comment, and it’s really obvious to see he doesn’t talk a whole lot). Nonetheless, he becomes Furiosa’s hybrid angel and demon, wild in nature and slow to trust but gets the job in assisting Furiosa to get her where she needs to go.
The standout from the rest of the cast is clearly Nicholas Hoult. He’s a young actor who takes increasingly challenging roles, and I’m happy to see him work his ass off in this movie. Particularly because he has to play a loyal cult member to Immortan Joe and acts like a groupie at a rock concert when Joe just simply stares at him. The women trying to escape Immortan Joe’s grasp really convey a wide range of emotions: one wants to return back to her captor, another is willing to die to live free, and another still wants to believe in some god who can save them.
It’s actually surprising how feminist this film really is. The women take charge in setting off the events of the film and end up saving the title character on multiple occasions and nary a thought is given to any one of them falling in “wuv” with Max. They’re just survivors trying to make a better existence in a world that has lost all civilization, all decency, and all sanity. It’s a true strength to the film that elevates it above a lot of the other films that have come out.
I seriously love this freaking movie. I am honestly hard pressed to find any complaints in it all. There is a story beat towards the end of the film that seems to be dividing people declaring it as the most genius thing ever put on film or the dumbest decision ever. Me? It just made sense story wise, and given everything that I saw beforehand I accepted it without much hesitation.
George Miller is the director of this film and he strikes me as a 1980s director who woke up from a three decade coma, looked at how other action movies are made, then proceeded to snort a gym bag’s worth of premium cocaine before he jotted down his vision for the film. It’s surprising to behold such madness, but it’s beautiful when he focuses it for to appreciate the wide berth of rage.
I have not given a “perfect” rating to a film since the first Avengers film. That was three years ago. I’ve seen a lot of great movies since then but few have set my mind ablaze the way this film did. So without further ado, I give Mad Max: Fury Road my highest rating….
BETTER THAN SEX!!