What a lovely day, ndeed.
'Mad Max: Fury Road', brings back the iconic underrated character Max to the fore once again after 30 years. George Miller's seminal work gets a revisit in a film that is balls to walls jam packed with action and unrelenting maniacal fun with Tom Hardy replacing Mel Gibson as the titular character.
In 'Fury Road', Max is still as Mad and haunted as ever. We get hints of his backstory in flashes, including possibly the haunting voices of his dead wife and child (From the original film). The fourth in the series establishes the world once again.
It's a wasteland and society has been torn asunder, everyone and everything fight for oil but some for something much more hopeful and powerful; freedom. Max is thrust into a situation where a cult leader Immortan Joe controls a citadel brimming with water. His greatest soldier, Imperator Furiosa though has gone renegade and run away with his wives; those who believe belong to him. Max is just a distraction, but one that can gain redemption and help these people fight back.
On the surface the film doesn't contain much more to the story, but it's the glorious depth and soul that Miller and his writers (Brendan McCarthy and Nico Lathouris) find in the message that is powerful enough to brings its own wonder to a visual masterpiece.
The underlining themes of gender expectations, convention and feminism are explored with multitude angles and characters. This is not just a film about female liberation and male bashing in the face of it, but also the ideals we push across our own simple identifying facets.
The first time Max meets the Wives, Miller makes sure to present them in a norm sexually enticing activity of bathing (in the thinnest of clothes). One woman removes the chains covering her genitals and it's a brilliant deconstruction of the objectification that mainstream cinema is a culprit off.
Max himself in most cases is merely an observer, sure he saves them on multiple occasions but his hesitancy to get involved gives him a dimension of the average male in an unjust society.
There's in essence two main heroes of the film and none of them is Max. The first is Nicholas Hoult's Nux, a character who is part of the War Boys. A faction that believes in the god like might of Immortan and believes that he will take them to Valhalla. Blinded boys from the onset, who are forced to fight and die to prove their worth. Symbolic of the nature of manhood in our society, forcing boys to become the so called idea of what a 'man' is supposed to be.
It's a striking lesson Nux learns from one of the Wives; Capable that makes him realize he is worthy and accepted no matter what, all he now needs to be is a hero to truly ascend to wherever the promise land may be and he does so.
The other, the one whom the film truly revolves around is Furiosa. Theron's fighting champion, is a person pushed to the brink to save those women and bring them to the land from whence she came. 'The Green Place' a land free and fruitful unlike the vast harsh desert. It's no surprise that it is tended by the creatures of mother earth. A faction matriarch's who've also lost their place in the world and have been forced to pick up violent methods to fight back. A line between feminism and forced extremism that the writing straddles brilliantly.
Even the villainous Immortan Joe is played with great paradox and dualities. He is a vile creature, but one who is in some forms a caring father though only for a male child. It's a manifestation of the savagery of man in some sense and the irony that comes with it, unlike water for everyone; Joe drinks mothers milk to survive.
Somehow this unfathomable analogies are packaged into a film with one hell of a unrelenting pace. Even in the slower character driven moments there's a sense of tension and even in the furious action there's an emotional pull between the character and the audience. Of course that's not even mentioning the subtle thread of political examination and environmental issues the film asserts itself with.
All of this is thankfully not provided in excruciatingly detailed exposition. Like the glorious visuals of the film, Miller and his writers let the viewer invest themselves and understand the issues, character and world at hand without spoon feeding.
It is sublime writing.
The action itself is to die for. This is the best action film one will see and includes a fascinating mash up of genres, a feel of a western and horror thriller. Forming the crux of the narrative is a masterfully crafted and choreographed chase sequence that features mind boggling action with a fascinating bunch of characters.
From Max to the War Boys to Furiosa and a freaking amazing flame thrower guitarist. The film is breathtakingly shot, shots encapsulating one's imagination with the wide angles and the constant movement that follows the blasts and the fights. The camera captures all the madcap energy with glory and without confusing the eyes. Everything and everyone is in perfect sync. It's like poetry in motion, no in madness. The vfx work is gorgeous in its entirety. Turning the colors and the world into a whirlpool sucking you right in.
Namibia becomes a fitting replacement for the Australian outback.
Off the performances, the smaller number of the cast are fantastic. Special props to Rosie Huntington, who is far more improved from her plastic performance in the third Transformers film. She is refined here and its great to see that.
Each of the other characters playing the Wives are terrific and great in their own right. Despite screen time, they're all written so wonderfully and acted aptly as well.
As Joe, Byrne returns to the franchise he helped make. In the original he was the villainous biker gang leader Toecutter. Here he plays a different character, one far much menacing and vile. The abuse he has caused the women is never shown but it is highlighted in his unrelenting viciousness as well as calm delivery when one of his wives dies. All they are breeding tools and despite being in limited use, Byrne makes you really despise the villain while questioning one's own abuse of our power.
Nicholas Hoult as Nux is a great injection of sometimes levity and sometimes heart into the film. His arc allowing him to display a great range of emotions.
Despite being the titular character, Tom Hardy is sparingly shown. He is in fact a supporting player. He makes a great hero, but also one that requires help ever so often and isn't simply nice. It's the hard edged, soft heart character Hardy has perfected. There is minimal dialogue and Hardy utilizes his expressions, body language and above all else grunts (those he showed a natural talent of conveying emotion through, in Lawless) perfectly.
But it's like as Miller would want, Charlize Theron who steals the show. Her emoting is pitch perfect, a scene when she realizes her home is no more is a perfectly captured cliché moment of her screaming in silence, but Theron punctuates it with her own rage, heart and above all else despair. She plays it tough but with great emotional nuance to strike a real chord with the audience.
The score beats between electric, raging as the torrent of Joe's legions chase Furiosa and her band. Heroic at the sight of her and Max and emotionally evocative in the hearts of the characters. The use of silences then becoming profoundly effective.
'Fury Road' is a fascinating rejuvenation for one of the most epic and underrated trilogies of all time. It is one hell of a ride worth taking and is ballistic madness on screen. Watching this in IMAX or 3D is a treat unlike anything. Seriously, catch it!