Mad Max: Fury Road (15/R, 120 mins)
Director: George Miller
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
There have been reasons to be cheerful and reasons to be fearful regarding the release of Mad Max: Fury Road. On the one hand George Miller, director of the original trilogy of Mel Gibson movies, returns at the helm, and we know he knows how to shoot action.
For once the trailer wasn’t lying; in fact, it doesn’t begin to do justice to the finished film, a kinetic cinema experience probably unseen since Gravity. Taking place in a properly and completely demented world, it’s essentially a two hour chase, and there has quite simply never been anything like it.
Fury Road is not remotely a Mad Max remake, more a continuation of the universe, with backstory swiftly dealt with in an opening voiceover. We’re filled in on the apocalypse and on Max Rockatansky (Tom Hardy), the one-time cop whose family was murdered, sending him into a spiral of madness and barely surviving in the wasteland that is now Australia.
Chased through the desert by goons, Max is taken prisoner to a cliff-side community run by Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne, who played villain Toecutter in the original Mad Max). Fuel was the driving force of the original movies, but the writers seem to have finally realised that water is more precious than oil, and the Immortan rations out the water as a way of keeping the people in check.
This is filmmaking to melt the eyeballs, packed to bursting with breathtaking stunt work and imagery and rapid, bruising fights. With Max, Furiosa and others driving a tanker, and the Immortan and his hordes chasing in heavily armoured cars, the carnage unleashed as people and vehicles leap and tumble every which way is enough to make you marvel at how they could have achieved it. And it’s CGI-augmented rather than CGI-driven, so even though once in a while you can see the join, it’s there to enhance the spectacle.
If there's a sticking point, it's that Max is barely a character; he's a figurehead, a recognised name to hang the film on. This isn’t a world of heroes though, it’s survival that’s the only imperative, and with his growls and grunts and handful of words, Hardy makes him as enigmatic and dangerous as he needs to be. Theron is immense too, with Furiosa every bit as capable as Max and in many ways the real hero.