George Huertas ‘15 / Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer
This is a film that feels like it should not exist. A film that belongs in the same hushed, hallowed annals of projects that were simply too grand to be, like Jodorowsky’s Dune, del Toro’s At the Mountains of Madness, and Orson Welles’ Heart of Darkness. Something that is simply too ambitious and too crazy to function in Hollywood’s culture intensely studio-based, carefully planned blockbusters. And yet, here we are. In 2015, George Miller has made an intense, R-rated, $150 million film that lives and breathes with the same life-force granted to his previous films. And you know what? It’s pretty damn spectacular.
Mad Max: Fury Road tells a simple story: warlord Immortan Joe’s (Hugh Keays-Byrne) harem of women escapes from his compound to make a trek across the desert. Along the way, they meet up with Max (Tom Hardy), who agrees to help them. A two-hour car chase ensues. And yet, it is with this simplicity that the true spirit of this film can shine. And its spirit gives us something that we haven’t seen in a studio film in a long, long time: a genuine, energetic, thrilling theatergoing experience.
Where to begin? We could start with the performances. Despite the limited dialogue, there’s a great deal of weight wrung from the actors’ physicality. An occasional wry grin from Max, the intensity that shimmers from Furiosa’s (Charlize Theron) eyes, or the body language of Immortan Joe’s wives all give the necessary emotions and depth to connect with these characters. In one of the film’s few quiet moments, a night where all of them rest and gaze at the stars gives insight to the tenderness at the heart of the women, and indeed, at the heart of the film. By transforming would-be victims into survivors, Fury Road is a surprisingly empowering film for women.
But we mustn’t leave out Junkie XL’s score. A thunderous, epic mix of modern guitar sounds and intense drum beats, the score feels like a character in and of itself. And indeed, it almost is, in the form of the Coma-Doof Warrior, a man wielding a flame-spouting guitar.
Though it must be said that the true star of the film is George Miller. Filming the action sequences with a kinetic, breakneck intensity that grabs the viewer by the throat and doesn’t let go, Miller has not let his seventy-years slow him down one iota. The sheer ferocity of the action sequences on display here would be a feat from a director a third of his age. Yet Miller directs in a way that makes almost all other action movie directors look like amateurs. In this age of CGI over-reliance and of shaky, boringly-staged action sequences, Miller brings a genuine sense of joy and beauty to his action movie. Fury Road practically exists as a masterclass in action movie filmmaking, and is thus far the most entertaining film of the year by a tremendous margin.
Overall Grade: A