George Miller, ex doctor and director of the original Mad Max trilogy has returned with the chase movie to end all chase movies (or to inspire a new generation of imitators). A reliance on practical in-camera effects rather than the now dull and obvious CGI make Fury Road a sight to behold, and the non-stop action will leave you breathless.
The tale of Fury Road is fairly simple: Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron) has taken a war rig and the women King Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne) uses to create the next generation of War Boys, the obsessed, perhaps insane fighters of his personal army. Joe isn’t a happy man and personally leads the pursuit, sending for help from surrounding towns.
The pursuers are not to be sneezed at; there’s guns, there’s base-jumping lunacy, there’s men acting as gun-toting metronomes, swinging back and forth trying to get onto Furiosa’s war rig. Joe has help from The People Eater, played by an almost unrecognisable John Howard (the actor not the politician, though the latter would have been fun) and Richard Carter chews the scenery as The Bullet Farmer. Both veteran Australian actors could have been joined by Bert Newton, but he apparently left the production to go and make Annie; a great missed opportunity.
Max (Tom Hardy) was captured in the opening moments of the movie, with his old F4 Ford Interceptor, the souped-up ’70s cop car that featured in the original movie. He’s brought along for the ride by Nux (Nicholas Hoult), one of Joe’s pale white War Boys. The pursuit takes them into a massive storm, creating the circumstances for Max to join the women.
But it’s not as easy as sticking your thumb out and whistling, and the brilliantly named Furiosa isn’t about to give away her advantage nor her friends (Zoe Kravitz, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, Riley Keough, Abbey Lee and Courtney Eaton) to any burly bloke and pale wastrel sidekick that comes along. In a bare-knuckle fight, she lays both of them out yet Max manages to get the truck. His victory is short-lived thanks to an immobiliser that only Furiosa knows how to disable.
These two fighters bond over the course of the movie, ultimately a survival instinct, yet there’s no stereotypical blossoming romance to distract from the action nor disempower the female lead, for it is she that drives (literally and figuratively) the movie forward; Max is along for the ride, helping where he can, but he’s second bill. And yet, there’s moments where they act almost as one; the chase with the bikes has Max loading then handing a gun up to Furiosa; in the swamp, he hands over the sniper rifle to her because she’s the better shot. It’s an egalitarian action hero flick where the two leads are as strong and as fierce as one-another yet can see that working together is better than apart.
The vehicles, thanks to production designer Colin Gibson, are stars of their own, the mutant offspring of a petrol-head’s wild imagination, re-purposed vehicles with modifications that would give a traffic cop nightmares. They spit fire, they’ve got spikes and guns, they’ve got other cars welded on; they fire harpoons. The graph of street-legal modifications has these at its very extreme. These are the most jaw-dropping collection of modifications since — in all honesty — Beyond Thunderdome, in 1985. Nothing even comes close. The most hilarious of them all has to be the Valiant Charger built onto tank tracks, which Richard Carter uses to traverse swampland while blazing gunfire in the direction of the heroes. Only the addition of, say, a Holden Kingswood or a Monaro would have topped this piece of Australian engineering.
Though the one niggling worry is where they get the tyres from?
George Miller has a veritable cast of thousands helping make Fury Road a reality, both in front and behind the camera. Cinematography by John Seale puts the epic into the visuals, editing by Jason Ballantyne and Margaret Sixel keep the thrills coming, and Kristen Anderson (set designer), and Colin Gibson make the world look wasted, lived-in and dangerous. They’re aided by Shira Hockman and Jacinta Leong as art directors, and Katie Sharrock, Lisa Thompson and Gina Vazquez as set decorators.
And the stunt team deserve accolades aplenty for staging the astonishing action and actually walking away with all their limbs intact. Anna Wood, Keir Beck and Marius Botha all co-ordinate stunts while Greg Van Borssum and Richard Norton help co-ordinate fights.
The only criticism that could really be levelled at the movie is around the now standard Teal and Orange colour scheme that’s found in every modern Hollywood movie. The original movies — admittedly shot between 1979 and 1985 — showed the landscape as beautifully majestic, epically empty and vast, with a unique palate appropriate to the country of Australia. By pushing the standard colour scheme, the film makers have made Namibia look like every other film location, so the similarities create a world not quite unique.
If you want to see a movie with genuine pulse-pounding thrills that put many an action-hero to shame, in-camera effects rather than CGI, and to top it off, strong female characters kicking serious arse, then Mad Max: Fury Road is the movie you have to see, especially on the big screen.
Mad Max: Fury Road is in Australian cinemas from 14 May through Warner Bros Pictures.