Rarely does a film come along, particularly one connected to a forgotten but favoured franchise, and do some justice. Yet, here we are. 30 years beyond Thunderdome and director George Miller has returned to Mad Max with a new Road Warrior and what may well be the best film of the year so far.
Much like the world in Fury Road, the history of Mad Max is lost in the barren wasteland and makes no effort to connect with the Gibson-starring trilogy. That’s fine, because frankly any flicker of backstory is merely a window of breathing time, and you’ll soon learn to accept they are in very short supply.
As soon as our heroes iconic Interceptor fills the screen and we meet our new Hardy-faced hero stood beside it, he’s captured by one of the many gangs of this new and ruined world, which he’s quick to try and escape from. His search for freedom immediately hits a bump in the road when he crosses paths with Furiosa (Theron), one of the tyrannical Immortan Joe’s (played by Mad Max’s original antagonist, Hugh Keays-Byne) trusted drivers who turns on her boss and makes a run for it, with special cargo in tow. Now Max and Furiosa have a common goal – get the hell outta town and away from danger or face the impending doom of Joe, and his flame-throwing guitarist.
That is honestly all you need. From here on out a chase ensues that consumes the entire film, and your senses in the process. Steering, slinging and swinging the audience across the baking hot Namibian desert, Fury Road makes for a heart-pounding piece that reminds you just how much you’ve missed practical effects. With very few CGI moments on show (although the drive into the computer-generated sand storm is beautiful), it’s clear every effort is being made to keep you in the thick of it, as gorgeous gear-shifting stunts unfold showing you just what world Miller envisioned way back when, with a budget he has now.
Every scene catapults you through a mass of engine-smashing carnage with a stunt team testing their own life span, in vehicles that have an even shorter one. Admist this picturesque pile-up though, is the one thing that seperates Miller’s blockbuster from others; a cast that you attach with immediately.
It could’ve been so easy to make this just another loud and proud fireball of a film to fall in line with the rest, but with Tom Hardy and Charlize Theron in the front seat that changes drastically. Stepping into Gibson’s gear, Hardy fits the worn down leather jacket just right and conveys all he needs to in his fairly dialogue-deficent role. Max was never a man of many words in the previous films, and Fury Road is no different. Spending a majority of the first act in a mask (hardly a stretch for him), Hardy channels the hero through frantic and feral-like eyes, which for the most part Theron’s Furiosa is on the receiving end of, and she gives just as much back as well.
Easily the highlight of Miller’s motorised masterpiece is Furiosa, and it’s just as much her film as it is Max’s. When the world is crashing and bashing into a million pieces around her, Theron’s heroine shares the weight of keeping the audience grounded and praying that everyone (including Nicolas Hoult as blinded Joe follower, Nux) makes it through this drive in one piece. An impressive feat for both, considering that they’ve got enough dialogue to cover a table napkin. Fury Road isn’t one for talking though, it says all that needs to be said with a fine mix of mayhem and peaceful and pristine miliseconds sprinkled in between. It feels almost daring to ask what’s in store for the already sealed sequels that lay ahead. We can only assume Miller knows how he’s going to top it, as there’s nothing in the rest of 2015 that will.