Let’s just start with the question that brought you here: Should I see this movie? And the answer: Yes!
Starting with the who’s. The ever more versatile Tom Hardy takes over the role of Mad Max from the actually mad Mel Gibson. Though thirty years separate Fury Road and Beyond Thunderdome – or are we not counting that one? – the desperate, unhinged Max that Hardy gives us is right on point. But he’s not the reason you’re gonna want to see this. Max, once you’re past the opening sequence, is relegated to the backseat in George Miller’s apocalyptic opus. Front and center, and the real draw, is Imperator Furiosa. Played by the absolutely unstoppable Charlize Theron, Furiosa is the massive center holding this spinning, exploding ball of insanity together.
Adding color to the bleak is Nicholas Hoult as Nux, whose childlike eagerness shaped by grotesque depravity is an oddly perfect fit. I suspect that was the point. Rounding out the center stage are the antagonist Immortan Joe’s wives. Plural not possessive. Five of the future’s most model-esque and fertile breeders. Including DNA from names like Kravitz and Presley, the brides never feel in the way or forced. A group of pretty faces, male or female, eating up most of the screen time typically spells disaster – or Twilight, same difference – in a film with such a stark and hopeless plot.
Between Hardy’s minimal dialogue, Theron’s shaved head and pretty much everyone either wearing a mask or being painted head-to-toe, the ego-free performances given by A-list stars under what I’m sure were less than glamorous conditions is refreshing. It’s not two hours of super-star headshots with exploding cars in the background. The exploding cars are right up front. On to the what.
If you’re new to the franchise, Fury Road is the fourth installment. Mad Max, The Road Warrior and Beyond Thunderdome were its predecessors, each – except maybe BT – have a fervorous cult following that rely on creator George Miller’s minimalistic style. Whether it’s zombies or plague, Miller created the template for the modern post-apocalyptic thriller. Fury Road leads with a scavenger tribe capturing Max, introducing us to the villain and the only stable location in the film. Amidst a hijacking by one of their own, enter Furiosa, the group’s leader and dozens of his cannon foder driven war machines take chase. They must reclaim his wives after all. Max reluctantly joins team Charlize in an unlikely attempt at getting the five girls to a safer place, featuring the rarest of colors in this future, green. Though the story is simple, it’s enough.
Performances and plot aside, the real beauty here is in the details. Though the 3D is take-it-or-leave-it, the overall fidelity is magnificent. Nothing is taken for granted or lazily done. Each character, vehicle and prop are masterfully and meticulously prepared with every nuance thought out. It’s what allows you to see a man bungied into a giant rolling boom-box wielding a flame-throwing guitar and not call bullshit. Seriously.
But taking the cake on my score card is the film’s cinematography. From beautiful, sweeping panoramics to tight, action filled close-ups, you never notice the camera. That’s the biggest compliment I can pay Miller and his crew. You are always in the right place at the right time to see exactly what you need to see. The camera does move at times, but it never feels like a gimmick or takes you out of the scene. But here in lies my biggest gripe. I’m not a fan of slo-mo. 98.5% of the time it’s a cheap and lazy maneuver by an unimaginative filmmaker. George likes to use the opposite, choosing to have brief, frantic moments where the film speed is ramped up creating a Benny Hill feel (look it up, kids!). I’m not a fan of that either. It’s the one aspect in Fury Road that took me out of the action and reminded me I was watching a movie, not experiencing one.