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Dan's Review: "Mad Max" a spectacular treat

May 22, 2015 01:15PM ● Published by Dan Metcalf

Tom Hardy and Charlize Theron in Mad Max: Fury Road - © 2015 Warner Bros.

Mad Max: Fury Road (Warner Bros.)

Rated R for intense sequences of violence throughout, and for disturbing images.

Starring Tom Hardy, Charlize Theron, Nicholas Hoult, Hugh Keays-Byrne, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, Riley Keough, Zoë Kravitz, Abbey Lee, Courtney Eaton, Megan Gale, Josh Helman, Nathan Jones, John Howard, Richard Carter, iOTA, Angus Sampson, Jennifer Hagan, Melissa Jaffer, Gillian Jones, Joy Smithers.

Written by George Miller, Brendan McCarthy and Nico Lathouris.

Directed by George Miller.

GRADE: A-

REVIEW:

In a film age where anything is possible through special effects, it’s refreshing to see a movie that feels a little more real. Funny thing is, George Miller began his filmmaking career by doing real, spectacular stuff in 1979 with the original Mad Max, starring a young fellow named Mel Gibson. Now fully entrenched in the digital/CG film age, we tend to forget pioneers like Miller, who taught us that the best movie action comes from images that are captured from real action. Since his original Mad Max franchise days (1979-85), Miller has forayed into lighter fare, including Babe (the pig movie) and Happy Feet (the animated penguins movie). Decades later, Miller returns to his roots in Mad Max: Fury Road.

Having passed into pariah-hood and senior citizen status, Mel Gibson has also passed the torch onto Tom Hardy in the title role of Max Rockantansky, the former policeman and apocalyptic survivor. Max begins his latest adventure by getting captured by the cultish War Boys, led by the disfigured and masked King Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne, who also played a villain in the 1979 Mad Max). The War Boys use Max for blood transfusions to combat illnesses caused by all that dystopian nuclear radiation. They even bring Max along during one of their fuel run/road trips to a neighboring faction. During the trip, a larger tanker rig is driven by Imperator Furiousa (Charlize Theron), who decides to take an eastern detour. She ditches her armed escorts, including Nux (Nicholas Hoult), who has Max chained to the front of his vehicle, not to mention attached in constant blood transfusion. When Furiosa breaks away from the route, King Joe summons the other clan leaders and takes chase. Furiousa’s has smuggled five of King Joe’s beautiful breeder concubines (Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, Riley Keough, Zoë Kravitz, Abbey Lee, Courtney Eaton) inside the tanker, and plans to bring them to the place of her birth, where women rule in a “green place.”

Along the way, Max frees himself from Nux, and makes himself useful to Furiosa as the group battles with King Joe and the other violent groups. When they reach Furiosa’s destination, they are more than a little disappointed, and Max convinces the women to go back and stage a coup on King Joe’s lair, now left unguarded.

Mad Max: Fury Road is one spectacular visual experience. Not only is the movie photographed beautifully, it also features that good old George Miller stunt choreography. While there are some special effects in the movie, the most thrilling moments happen when there’s real action on screen. It’s a combination that works to near perfection; a tableau of action, tense situations and gritty performances that is altogether graphic without resorting to gratuitousness.

Tom Hardy is well on his way to super stardom, but his turn as Mad Max should catapult him into A-list status. He’s has a screen presence reminiscent of the “Mel” guy in his heyday. Charlize Theron is equally brilliant as the tough, driven Furiosa. She’s got “action star” chops for sure.

If I have any quibbles about Mad Max: Fury Road, it would be a few slow chapters building up to the finale, and the strong resemblance it has with main themes of 1985’s Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome (the quest for a mythical “promised land” being the most prominent).

All quibbles aside, Mad Max: Fury Road is a very good, very exciting film that doesn’t feel like it was created on a computer screen. In today’s digital age, that’s a unique film experience.

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