Mad Max: Fury Road (2015) directed by George Miller, starring Tom Hardy, Charlize Theron, Nicholas Hoult and Hugh Keays-Byrne.
This review contains no spoilers
Mad Max: Fury Road is an exhilarating and absolutely action packed cinematic experience. However what makes this film unique, and worthy of applause and acclaim, is the way George Miller has effortlessly incorporated fluid and intellectual narrative and social commentary into it.
Mad Max: Fury Road feels like a constant piece of visual narrative, in the way that even though dialogue is ultimately scarce, it still is able to tell a story through body expressions, action sequences and fundamental character relationships. Miller wanted to create a film that as Alfred Hitchcock stated, could be understood by the Japanese without subtitles. And he has without a doubt succeeded. Every aspect of the film is important, whether it be the incredible world building, the symbolic design of the vehicles or the absurdist traits and costuming choices of specific characters.
The action is incredible, it feels both unique and fresh, however while the car chase sequences do take up the majority of the film, it never gets repetitive. Miller finds different ways to involve a multitude of characters in an action sequence that is both dramatic and tense and the way this links to the character development of the films central players is imperative. Whether it be through the psychological torture of Max as he fights a top a moving rig, or the feminist statement of Furiosa defying the orders of Imorten Joe. This is a film that lives and breathes violent action, but is still able to convey characters and their change over the course of the film in a perfectly weaved way. You gain a sense of understanding the characters even before they speak, with body language and character interactions being key. While Max may be perceived as completely, well mad, the film does not need to explain this, instead by the way he fights, the risks he takes and the way he interacts with other characters, the audience can understand this. The same goes for Furiosa. While we can assume her hatred for Imorten Joe comes from the way he treats women as property and his tyrannical, and similarly corporate, rule over the people, no dialogue and back story is needed to persuade us of this. It is these elements and Millers ability to make them feel fluid that is what makes Mad Max: Fury Road, not just exceptional but perfect as a story telling mechanism.
I will honestly say that while the film is titled Mad Max, this is Furiosa’s story, and Chalize Theron does by no means disappoint. She instead does the exact opposite, giving arguably the performance of her career, ( Yes, even better than her Oscar winning performance in Monster) and does indeed deserve an Oscar for it. In a similar fashion to Sigourney Weaver’s Ellen Ripley in the Alien Franchise, Furiosa will become a feminist icon, yet the power of her significance does not come from her making dominant female empowering statements, but from her simply doing what she must do to survive, this in itself is incredible. The subtlety of her goals and her symbolism makes her even more a champion within a film that does delve into gender politics. While Furiosa delivers on every level, so do the five wives, each bringing both a glamorous vision of post-apocalyptic beauty as well as being dangerous, violent and ultimately determined to survive. Again Miller creates and presents characters that do not definitively state themselves as feminist characters, but just are. It is this human will to survive that empowers the characters to symbolise the wrath of the human condition, no matter their gender. Comparing this ideal to that of Max himself, we can see that such a comparison is fit. Again while Max is the titular character, he is often overwhelmed by the skills of the female characters, they are just as powerful as him, in their own way and spirit. But this is not to say that Max is a bad or outdone character, just that there are others that can fight toe to toe with him, something that Tom Hardy’s performance is representative of. He is simply a man wanting to survive, and if someone, no matter their gender, can help with that, then so be it.
It is this level of perfection that also delivers itself in the form of musical score, editing, and imagery. While the film is a constant example of how to create a jaw-dropping action sequence, it also emphasises the power of sound, creating a roaring, thrilling demonstration of how music can be used to up the tension and dramatic brilliance of the piece. Furthermore, the editing is stunning and completely effortless considering the vast amount of gory, car chase shots to work with. However what shines the most is Millers key example of imagery, something that is significant throughout the film. Not only does the film looks beautiful, aside of some stray but only momentary cheap visual effects, but that it is symbolic of so much. Each car, each costume, each setting, each character has been designed to highlight a social commentary of ideals. It is this that stuck with the me the most from the film as it felt not only powerful but exact. Miller has commented upon not only feminism and gender politics in a manner that is carefully perfect, but has designed a world that symbolises corporate greed, ownership and survival. From simple aspects such as the names of towns like Bullet Farm or Gas Town, to subtle religious references, this film bleeds intellectualism and considering the point that it is mostly just one big car chase, that is a testament to Miller’s brilliance as well as the films. There is a line in the film that to me sums up the modern world, something that I think was one of the most beautifully constructed as well as true pieces of dialogue and commentary I have heard. I cannot remember it exactly, but it revolves around the idea of the three main civilisations of the world, the Gas Town (an obvious reference to real life society’s corporate overlords), the Bullet Farm (highlighting the militaristic aspect of our world) and Imorten Joe’s stronghold which dominates the world’s water supply. The dialogue, and this is not a spoiler but rather an example of the films brilliance at commenting on the state of real society, asks which one is the most dangerous, which one “destroyed the world”. It was this that made Mad Max: Fury Road a complete eye opener, because those three factions are very real, they live amongst us in our time and that one line represented an accumulation of ideas, who will destroy the world first? The corporations, the military or the selfish? Or is it the thought that those three ideas are actually just different aspects of one collective power, as corporations become militaristic, the military becomes a selection of factions with their own selfish goals and those who only serve themselves gain greater and greater power. It is our world that is represented in Mad Max: Fury Road
In conclusion, you must see Mad Max: Fury Road, not only because it is a perfect social commentary, but it has the action, acting, imagery, music and development (it goes on and on) of a classic film. It doesn’t rely on telling the audience information but rather shows us, and boy does it do it in a beautiful way.