“I fucking loved it.”
That was my initial reaction after walking out of the theater following the screening of Mad Max: Fury Road, and 24 hours later I feel exactly the same. Trapped in a state of perpetual forward motion and absolutely relentless in its pacing, it’s a jaw-dropping, eye-popping, mind-blowing experience that sets a new standard for what audiences should expect from action filmmaking.
From the first shot of Max (Tom Hardy) surveying the wasteland, the film shifts into high gear and never looks back. It’s nearly a full 30 minutes before you’ll have a chance to catch your breath, and even that respite lasts mere moments before the engines are roaring, the bullets are flying, and the characters are pressing ever onward.
Along the way, we encounter the major players in this post-apocalyptic tale: there’s Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne), a dictator who controls the only source of clean water and breeds a constantly supply of his “war boys” to keep himself in power; Furiosa (Charlize Theron), one of Joe’s most trusted lieutenants and driver of the massive War Rig; and Nux (Nicholas Hoult), a war boy with a surprising connection to Max, who yearns to prove himself on the battlefield.
And then there are the Breeders (Zoe Kravitz, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, Riley Keough, Abbey Lee, and Courtney Eaton), smuggled away in the cargo hold of the War Rig, racing cross the desert in a desperate attempt to free themselves of Joe’s tyranny. Furiosa’s decision to defy her master and smuggle his wives away to her childhood homeland is the spark which ignites the fires of war, and it’s not long before Joe and his entire army – not to mention the surrounding clans – are bearing down on Furiosa and Max.
But these women are no damsels in distress – quite the contrary, in fact. Furiosa is every bit the warrior that Max is, proving her mettle time and again throughout the never-ending chaos, and the wives are smart and strong-willed, resolute in their decision to no longer be seen as objects, but rather as people. Each character is given ample time in the spotlight, and if anything, it’s Max that winds up getting a little short-changed here.
The final chase scene during the third act of The Road Warrior has stood the test of time as one of the greatest action sequences ever filmed, so it’s only fitting that it should finally be dethroned by the same director. Mad Max: Fury Road feels like George Miller set out to film a two-hour version of that same sequence, only with bigger cars, bigger guns, bigger explosions and of course, a bigger budget. Everything about this film is big, and that’s exactly how it should be seen: on the biggest screen, with the biggest speakers, and surrounded by the biggest audience you can find.
If that sounds exhausting, you’re not wrong – but it’s exhausting in the absolute best way possible. I can honestly say I’ve never seen anything quite like this released by a major motion picture studio, and Warner Bros. deserves all the credit in the world for allowing Miller to bring his vision to life on such an impossibly enormous scale. Mad Max: Fury Road is a brilliantly-directed, strikingly original film, extending a defiant leather-clad middle finger to a genre that is all too often flooded with mediocrity, and daring the rest of Hollywood to elevate their game.