Let’s get this part out of the way quickly: Yes, somewhere in the past I have watched all three of the earlier Mad Max movies, but I do not consider myself a huge fan of them. They’ve always just kind of been in that crop of movies about which I’ve just kind of felt indifferent. So my decision to go see the latest installment, Mad Max: Fury Road, this past Friday was not one, like some people I know, built on months of anticipation and a feeling of “I can’t wait to watch this!” but more “Well, I’ve got some time this afternoon before I have to do anything else, so why not?”
Which is why I’m rather surprised to be sitting here writing this and telling you not only to go see the movie, but to see it in theaters, on the big screen, and in the highest quality possible – yes, I’m even suggesting you spring extra for the 3D version.
Let’s get this out of the way part 2: I’m inclined to say there is absolutely no plot whatsoever to this movie, but that’s not quite true. There is a plot, or at least a very rudimentary one, but it really doesn’t matter what it is, because it really only exists as a reason for the characters to be going from point A to point B. Actually, Fury Road is, in it’s way quite reminiscent of the road movies of the 70s such as Vanishing Point or even Smokey and the Bandit – odd comparisons, I’ll admit where the entire point of the exercise is to see how far down the road one can get the protagonist either gets caught by pursuing forces or is simply so lost in the mayhem of the road that they can go no further.
“Mayhem.” Yeah, that really is the word to describe what occurs in this movie. Except that we’re not Just talking mayhem. We’re not even talking what some people might call “capital ‘M’ Mayhem. No, we’re actually talking more along the lines of “capital ‘MAY’ capital ‘HEM’ followed by about a half dozen exclamation points. MAYHEM!!!!!!
That’s what this movie is really all about.
Yet despite that fact, this is not a movie that winds up descending into chaos. What do I mean by that? Simple. Though Fury Road is full of all kinds of insane stunts and explosions and car crashes and people killing each other and being killed in more and more violent ways, due to the sure and steady guiding hand of director George Miller and his careful planning and vision – along with some amazing work by editor Margaret Sixel, there are very few times when one is unable to very clearly follow every bit of what is happening on the screen or when the focus is lost and the action simply becomes a blur.
Simply put, Fury Road is truly an action film masterpiece, and that is not a word that I am inclined to use lightly.
There are a few other positive notes that I’d like to point out about the film. Much has – and deservedly so – been made of Charlize Theron‘s role in the movie, and it’s true, she does dominate a lot of what happens onscreen to the point that yes, it can very well be called her movie as much as titular star Tom Hardy. But there are also secondary female characters that in almost any other film of this sort would be included purely as “eye candy” or as “damsels in distress” who exist only to be rescued. and when they are first introduced, that is exactly the role they seem to be intended to take. However it is not long before they prove themselves to be if not perhaps as capable as the main stars, at least integral parts of the ensuing action and just a willing to participate in and do their best to hold their own in everything that is going on around them.
Also, I made note above that this is a movie that has a decidedly old-school feel to it, and a huge part of the reason for that is the incredible number of stunts that are either purely practical and done in camera or that involve very little in the way of CGI. That’s not to say that Miller doesn’t take advantage of every trick and technology advance that is available to him – he certainly does – but there is never that point where one gets the feeling that he is simply saying “let’s show ’em how we can do this now!” or “let’s leave that one to be done in post”. No, this movie is all about getting the shot at the time and that results in a visceral feel to the movie that serves to raise the stakes even further because while watching it one does get the feeling that at any moment someone really could get injured or killed or that the entire production could come crashing down or descend into that state of chaos that I described above.
Which brings me to another positive point about this movie. When I mentioned “raised stakes” above, I didn’t just mean in terms of the stunt work involved, but also with the characters. Fury Road is one of those rare movies where it really feels as though characters that we have come to care about are in danger, and not everyone that one might otherwise expect to is going to make it out the other end of the film alive, and that proves to be true. There are even a couple of deaths that are shocking not just because they occur, but in the way that they take place.
All in all, I have to say that for a movie that I really just went to see on a “why not” whim, I’m surprised at how impressed I was by it, and the enthusiastic support that I find myself giving it. If you are at all an action movie fan, and you want to see a prime example of what can be made when a film maker clearly has his sights set simply on giving his audience what they want and delivering exactly the movie that he wants, then you owe it to yourself to go see Fury Road, because you are not likely to have an opportunity like this again for a long time.