Last week, I had an experience that is unfortunately all too uncommon: on coming out of Mad Max: Fury Road, I was absolutely giddy. Like, my hands were a little shaky and I had trouble focusing on things. Since then I have tried to come up with what I might say to you, how I might recommend this movie. And, wonderfully, I don't have much. Only that Mad Max: Fury Road is possibly the best action movie of the decade so far.
The story is pretty barebones. Max (Tom Hardy) is taken captive by a tribe of zealots led by Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne). When Furiosa (Charlize Theron) decides to leave with one of his war rigs, Max, by now a human blood bag, is caught up in the chase.
The film is essentially one wonderful car chase, as one might hope from a movie titled Fury Road. And it is the most fun you'll have in a movie this year. Period. Much of this is, of course, due to the miraculous zaniness director George Miller and his team bring to the screen in their design of the world. And it is miraculous because this film feels like an absolute anomaly in our present cinematic atmosphere.
Much has been said of the film's feminist leanings, and indeed the film profits greatly by the women it shows us. This is, sadly, quite anomalous in itself. But I won't talk about that here. For it seems to me that it is equally anomalous in its practicality, especially as a large tentpole summer feature. This film throws into stark relief how permissive we have become of computer generated cartoon effects, and how often they fall utterly short.
Yes, this film uses CG effects. But they are usually to help with scale, landscape, or to remove things like safety harnesses or tracks in the sand. The film does not rely on them as a crutch to create drama or energy where none is elsewhere present, as is too often the case. Miller understands that if someone is swinging on a 25-foot pole attached to a car going 80 miles-per-hour, the most exciting way to show that is to actually show it. For a medium as intentionally alienating as film, increasing the alienation with unreal artificial effects rarely does any favors. Indeed, it often does the opposite of what it was meant to do. As audiences, we can very often tell when something is "real" and when it isn't. The Hulk fighting Iron Man loses vital energy, no matter the frenetic action onscreen, simply because it is a cartoon that is not real and there is one more layer of disbelief to suspend. Mad Max feels as real and immediate as its predecessors of 30 years ago, which is one of its greatest achievements in this age of increasingly artificial filmmaking.
So if you haven't, go see it already. Really. You will not find another movie experience like this for a long, long time.
Mad Max: Fury Road features Tom Hardy, Charlize Theron, Hugh Keays-Byrne, and Nick Hoult, and is rated R for surprisingly blood-free fighting with cars.
Written by George Miller, Brendan McCarthy, and Nick Lathouris
Directed by George Miller
Incidentally, this film has had some of the best trailers of recent memory. Here's the first one that sold me like a year ago.
by Chase Harrison