Dir: George Miller (2015)
George Miller‘s triumphant return to the post apocalyptic franchise that made Mel Gibson an international superstar has driven into a sandstorm of rave reviews and back and forth feminist hoopla; Mad Max: Fury Road is bold, brash, violent and incredibly good fun but the empowerment of women in the film has divided many viewers and critics; Some understanding the cinematic nods and others spitting bitter words into their over priced popcorn; The truth is Road Fury spits nitrous straight in to the sexist hollywood engine but it’s also a killer straight up action blaster.
Taking heavily from 1970’s exploitation films, Miller has transposed the “women in prison” genre such as Johnathan Demme‘s Caged Heat and made a prison escape film which focuses, breathlessly, on one long barren chase sequence after the fact. The scantily clad vixens (introduced hilariously like a Vogue photo shoot directed by Michael Bay) are the sex slave brides of a patriarchal war lord named Immortan Joe (Mad Max veteran Hugh Keays-Byrne) who are aided to freedom by a one-armed, hard as nails, skin headed truck driver named Furiosa (a stellar Charlize Theron).
Tom Hardy‘s slightly mad mumbling, grump version of Max Rockatansky is far more comic book than Gibson’s wild-eyed road warrior but the British actor, once again, finds some brilliant physical tics; A loner; captured, tortured and used to supply blood to one of the many malnourished tribal motor heads under god-like Joe’s rule, he breaks loose and joins Furiosa on the road at full throttle as they head towards the mythical “Green Place”. But the girls are well and truly in control here with Max unable to speak or move, let alone drive, for the first hour of the film. His face shielded with a metal cover reminiscent of Bane’s mouth piece in Christopher Nolan‘s The Dark Knight Rises.
Miller hides Max’s back story this time around apart from a ghostly young girl, hinting at what fans of the original films know so well; It’s a smart move which allows the technical genius director to get straight to the root of the action and the chase in his trademark loud and swinging style. He takes on the road trip with gusto, never shying away from some Jordowsky inspired moments of crazy or some downright over the top character reveals. Theron and Hardy do incredibly well to be the stars in such a spectacularly designed landscape and an unrecognisable Nicholas Hoult adds a frantic nervous energy to counter act their quiet hero demeanor.
But the star is the design and the spectacle; Can you have a really serious discussion about feminist themes in macho films when there’s a flame-throwing axe-wielding guitar player strapped to the front of a truck by a bungee cord hurtling through a barren desert? Perhaps you can. Either way it’s an absolute hoot.