“Out here, everything hurts.”
-Furiosa, Mad Max: Fury Road
2015 | 2 hours | Dr. George Miller | Warner Bros.
Mad Max: Fury Road doesn’t mess around.
Written and directed by Mad Max creator George Miller, Fury Road grabs you by the balls and doesn’t let go for two solid hours. You’ll see stuff you’ve never seen before.
Miller and production designer Colin Gibson (no relation to the original Mad Max actor) create a punishing, grotesque, desperate aesthetic. Australia has been ravaged by thermonuclear war. Ruthless tribes war for resources such as gas and water. The most powerful tribe are called War Boys, scarred, hairless minions led by warlord King Immortan Joe, a disgusting masked creature covered in boils and disguised by powder, plastic and metal.
Joe has some of the only water, but his kingdom needs gasoline, so he sends Imperiator Furiosa (Charlize Theron) out to get it. Instead, Furiosa stages a mid- trip coup and reveals her true mission: to transport Joe’s prized brides to The Green Place, where they can live free.
Enter Mad Max (Tom Hardy), the wordless, tribeless nomad. The War Boys ambushed Max for his wheels and now use him as a source of blood and body fluids. When the War Boy he supplies with blood hits Fury Road, Max ends up joining Furiosa’s cause.
This movie has every kind of action. Car chases. Motorcycle chases. Semi truck races. Street fighting. Knife fighting. Gun fighting. Explosion fighting. Guerilla fighting. Fighting with artificial limbs. Fighting using nature as a weapon. Yet Mad Max feels unlike any other action movie. These characters have so little to lose, their fights feel more high- stakes than ever.
Shit gets real in Mad Max. People die. Main characters get fatally wounded and other characters have to do more than cry and beg to keep them alive. These characters are brutally tough. You wonder if you could actually survive in their post- apocalyptic hellhole, and realize you probably couldn’t.
As I said, Mad Max almost never stops the action, which is a good thing. If you stop to think about Joe’s empire, you realize how disgusting- and practical- it is. Joe rules with an iron fist. He uses people for their physical components, like blood and milk, and completely devalues human life. If Australia actually had a thermo-nuclear war, and people were reduced to warring tribes, it probably would turn out a lot like Mad Max.
Miller says the film was inspired by “Hitchcock’s notion about films that can be watched anywhere in the world without subtitles”. Mad Max certainly accomplishes that, through music, the language of color, and nonverbal communication between characters. Even though Mad Max takes place in a fantasy world, everything in it feels real. Maybe because they actually built the cars and opted for stunts over special effects, but Everything- the crazy machine cars, the thirst for water, the fury, the danger, the characters’ emotions- feels painfully, excitingly real.
It takes a little while to get used to actual reality after seeing Mad Max on the big screen.