Monday, January 4, 2016

Mad Max: Fury Road


Directed by George Miller.

2015. Rated R, 120 minutes.
Cast:
Tom Hardy
Charlize Theron
Nicholas Hoult
Hugh Keays-Byrne
Rose Huntington-Whiteley
Riley Keough
Zoe Kravitz
Abbey Lee
Courtney Eaton
Josh Helman

We catch up with Max (Hardy) as he is attempting an escape from some pretty nasty looking dudes who are trying to brand him. Soon enough he finds himself strapped to the front of an impressive rig as the bad guys are chasing down some precious cargo. The rig is driven by Nux (Hoult) who is desperate to either move up in the ranks of the bad guys or die a glorious death on the battlefield. The cargo turns out to be the wives of the tyrannical Joe (Keays-Byrne). They were stolen by Imperator Furiosa (Theron) who was just supposed to be transporting the young women, not helping them escape. Along with Nux, Furiosa has a ton of bad guys after her, including Joe himself. Chase scenes ensue. Lots of chase scenes.

This is the type of film where the story is incidental to the movie as a whole. To the extent there is a plot, it's draped loosely over a string of big action set pieces. It's barely coherent enough to follow, but that's not nearly as big a detriment as it is for most movies. What's here is a marvelous visual spectacle. Both kinetic and inventive, what's presented to us is incredibly difficult, if not impossible, to tear your eyes from. Our brains need only be concerned with a few simple things: the lady made up to look like a raccoon is the good guy, Max just wants to get away from it all, everyone else is a bad guy.

In the roles of everyone involved, we get some excellent performances. Charlize Theron has been receiving heaps of praise for her work as Furiosa, and rightfully so. She delivers an instantly iconic female action hero. While I don't think it's even close to her best performance, it is clearly the best she's given in any of the blockbusters she's been in. This makes it likely that this is the role she'll be best remembered for, especially if she returns for future installments. On the other hand, star Tom Hardy isn't given much to do, but he does what little that is very well. He has a number of very nice moments where he conveys much without speaking. It's further proof that he is an excellent actor, but honestly feels a bit wasted here. Hopefully, there will be another Mad Max flick that will make better use of him.


For all the hype and praise heaped upon the movie and its two leads, there is one overlooked performer: Nicholas Hoult. Over the last few years, he's become an actor I've become fond of watching. It started with his wonderful portrayal of a zombie in 2013's Warm Bodies. That performance is the polar opposite of this one. Here, he's constantly in a wild-eyed frenzy. In another movie it might be over the top, but it fits seamlessly in this one.

A friend of mine watched Mad Max: Fury Road a few days before I did. He texted me that he hated it and laid out some legitimate complaints. He liked the action, but felt lost because he had never seen any of the other films in the franchise. A movie in which the previous installment was thirty years ago should take some time to explain things a bit. I get it. The film clearly assumes some sort of familiarity with the universe built back when Mel Gibson was a fresh, new face. I myself have only seen bits and pieces of the first two Mad Max films. I have watched the third, Beyond Thunderdome all the way through, but that was shortly after it first appeared on VHS. I couldn't tell you much about it other than Tina Turner was in it and sang the theme song. Still, the story was self-contained enough that this was not a hindrance to my enjoyment. Rather than turning me off, Fury Road made me want to seek out the others and give them a proper watch. Even if doesn't quite have that affect on you, I'd say give this one a shot. It's just all sorts of fun.

28 comments:

  1. I also get your friend's complaint that Fury Road never "sets up" the world in which Max exists.

    I guess he also hated Star Wars because that just jumped right into the action too..... sigh

    Glad you finally got to see this one mate, I'm actually surprised it took you so long! Occasionally a film comes along that doesn't *need* to dwell in character or meaningful plot (think Speed, which Fury Road echoes in many ways) other than the bare minimum to drive the story as it rumbles along. I think Fury Road accomplishes so much within its two-hour time that it deserves multiple viewings just to grab the stuff I missed the first time. Visually, one of the films of the year, for me.

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    1. He's seen the previous SW flicks, so he's okay, lol.

      I actually saw this and wrote the review a couple months back. Somehow, I neglected to publish it until now. I thought I had, honestly, until I tried to create a link to it for my Best of '15 post and found it wasn't there, lol.

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  2. For me, this is one of the best films of 2015 and man. It fucking guts you in terms of the physicality and what it does on a visual scale. Plus, I just love the atmosphere of it as well as Charlize Theron's performance. If it wasn't for The Hateful Eight, this would still be my film of the year. I also applaud for the fact that filmmakers are finally returning to practical effects in order to play something that feels real.

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    1. Yes, practical effects! I am also glad they are making a comeback.

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  3. I'm glad you liked this one. I didn't see any of the Mad Max flicks prior to this one, but it doesn't deter from this being its own film. It's one of the best films of the year.

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  4. Great review! I do see where your friend is coming from, I hadn't watched any other Mad Max movies when I saw Fury Road either, but I did still love it! It made me want to go back and watch the others, actually. Glad to see some love for Nicholas Hoult too, he's brilliant!
    - Allie

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    1. I see where he's coming from, too. Like most of you, I disagree. It works very well on it's own. And I think it's a crime that no one is talking about Hoult's performance.

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  5. This was a very rare "Steve goes to the theater" film for me last year. I paid my money to see two hours of car chases, explosions and stunts. Fury Road clocks in at 120 minutes, which means I got exactly what I paid for, and I left the theater with a smile on my face. When I watch a movie, I'm happy to be thoughtful, intrigued, depressed, or whatever the movie wants me to be. When I go to a movie, though, all I really want is to be entertained for the entire running time, and very few movies are as purely entertaining as Fury Road.

    Does it assume world knowledge? Sure. Don't care. It had a guy playing a flamethrower guitar suspended in front of giant amplifiers! Bread and circuses!

    Oh, and I agree on Nicholas Hoult. He's able to pull off that beautiful transition of starting as a hateful character and ending as someone we cheer for. That takes good writing, but it also takes us believing in the character--and all of that comes directly from Hoult.

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    1. It definitely gives you what you came for, and it does it extremely well. Yes, dude playing guitar was awesome. Very well put about Hoult. He really blew me away.

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  6. It's strange, because I TOTALLY get where your friend is coming from, and I think things like that shouldn't matter as long as the film it done well. And I think they filled in enough about the world for me to understand what was going on, but I still felt at arm's length for the entire film, despite how incredibly it's put together. So while I thought the film was good, I didn't quite enjoy it on the level of "Best Of..." lists. I agree with you on Nicholas Hoult, too. Such an under-praised performance.

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    1. It's a risk you run when making a sequel so long after the last installment. This film doubles the risk because it doesn't contain a whole lot of exposition. I think it paid off, but I see how that can turn some people off. And Hoult was great.

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  7. I do think that people overlook just how much rich story there is in this movie but it's always nice to read a positive review for this one. Hoult was very good but for me Hardy and Theron were just so much more memorable, as was Abbey Lee.

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    1. You're right, the story is overlooked, even in my own review. I think the issue is that it's so visually overwhelming, it's easy to lose sight of the story. And no one was more memorable than Theron.

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  8. Want to be in the band with that amazing blind guitar player...

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  9. I try not to gush over movies too much but Fury Road had me entranced. I fully agree with your review of the film. Hardy does amazingly well with almost nothing, Theron provides a memorable female character and Hoult puts in a stellar performance. There are still a few movies from 2015 that I have to give a look but I'm almost certain this one will top my list of Best movies. Here's my full review http://kgsmovierants.com/2015/05/19/mad-max-fury-road-review/ excuse the fanboying

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    1. Fanboying is cool. We all do it when we find something that knocks our socks off. I just read and commented on your review.

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  10. Your friend offers an interesting perspective that frankly I haven't thought about. I grew up loving this crazy series and Fury Road took it one step further (in a delightful way). My wife had a different reaction. She never cared for what she saw of the earlier films but really enjoyed this one.

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    1. Your wife's perspective is interesting, too. I hadn't thought about someone not liking the series, but enjoying this one. Sounds similar to what happened to a lot of folks when Fast Five came out. Lots of people who didn't like or were indifferent towards that franchise suddenly became ardent fans. Cool.

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  11. I haven't seen any of the other Mad Max films and I didn't feel as if I was at a disadvantage watching this. I didn't even realize they attempted to connect them in anyway. Like you said this film is fun. I personally never expected to like it. It blew my expectations away. Great review!

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    1. It is very fun, but my buddy just felt like he was missing something. I understand because I had a similar experience with Serenity. I never watched the TV show it was a continuance of and thought lots was missing from what I was watching. For that reason I could never get into it. Didn't feel that way with this one.

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  12. I LOVE this movie so much! It's definitely fun but it's more than that. I was engrossed in the story, esp Furiosa's journey and I agree Hoult was great though the stars were definitely Hardy and Theron. It's an easy choice why this is my #1 film of 2015!

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    1. It is much more than fun. I won't argue that.

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  13. I think this might be my favourite Mad Max film. Partly because I'm not as fond of Mel Gibson as I used to be and partly because George Miller did such a stellar job with this one alongside the brilliance of Theron and Hardy's performances.

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    1. I have nothing to say because I actually need to watch the first two and rewatch the third. I will agree that Theron and Hardy are great. And Hoult.

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  14. I agree the action feels more vital than the story. The costumes/makeup are very memorable, and sure was a fun ride while it lasted. I hope we eventuually get a sequel, because there is quite a lot unsaid in Fury Road that could be explored.

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    1. There is tons unsaid in this movie and there are multiple avenues to explore. I just hope one of those involves Furiosa.

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