Directed by George Miller.
2015. Rated R, 120 minutes.
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.