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Mad Max: Fury Road
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by alejandroariera

"Mad Max: Back-seat Driver"
5 stars

That the studios continued reliance on digital effects has had a detrimental effect on today’s action films, franchise-driven or not, became more than evident during a recent press screening of “Mad Max: Fury Road.” Prior to the screening, we were treated to the new trailer of the Dwayne Johnson-starring disaster flick “San Andreas”; no matter how hard Warner’s marketing team tried to humanize the film by focusing on the characters and not the special effects, the trailer left me cold. The effects were spectacular. But were terrifying and moving? Did they feel real? Not really. In fact, a couple of critics chuckled after the trailer was over.

And then the first shots of “Mad Max: Fury Road,” George Miller’s long-delayed entry in the series he began in 1979, hit the screen. In those first few minutes, where a bearded Max Rockatansky (Tom Hardy replacing Mel Gibson in the role) is pursued and captured by the forces of warlord Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne, who played the biker villain in the original “Mad Max”) and turned into a blood bag for ailing war boy Nux (Nicholas Hoult), Miller puts “San Andreas” and every Hollywood blockbuster to shame.

For while “Mad Max: Fury Road” does use some digital effects, its action sequences are grounded in real, palpable, geographic spaces. They mostly take place inside beautifully and bizarrely handcrafted vehicles. They obey the laws of physics, even when human bodies are jumping from vehicle to vehicle or are being lowered or swung from these large bending poles. The action is visceral, brutal, highly kinetic and exhilarating. But the film is also at times poignant, touching, hopeful, as the characters seek to preserve their humanity amidst the mayhem.

“Mad Max: Fury Road” rarely stops for air. It’s plot is pretty simple and, in a way, borrowed those old Westerns where a stagecoach was besieged by criminals or Indians: a group of people need to get from point A to point B, the latter being some sort of promised land where things might be better in this barren post-apocalyptic wasteland. Point B, in this case, is “the green land,” an apparently fertile terrain where the film’s real protagonist, Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron), a one-armed warrior, is taking Joe’s harem of breeding wives to after diverting the war rig truck she is driving from her usual destination (an oil-producing outpost). Joe and his posse are soon in pursuit with Max, wearing a mask, chained to the front of a car driven by Nux. The chase across the desert ends inside an impressive sandstorm soon envelops them; when the dust finally settles, Max enters into a fragile partnership with Fortuna once he rids himself of the mask.

Max here is no longer the quiet accidental hero out for himself that he became in the second and third film of the series (“The Road Warrior” and “Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome”). As portrayed by Hardy, Max is now a man close to losing it, haunted by the voices and visions of those he couldn’t save. You could also say he’s rather schizophrenic, truer to his nickname than he’s ever been. He is one of the walking dead, a man driven by sheer instinct. His grunts and growls and almost monosyllabic dialogue are the byproducts of a man who’s lived alone for way too long in this desolate landscape. He is a shell brought to life by these six women seeking a safe haven. But make no mistake about it: he is not their savior. These six women can fend for themselves pretty well, thank you very much. Max’s help is just added value to their mission.

In Charlize Theron’s Furiosa, Max has more than met his match. A tough as nails heroine in the tradition of Sigourney Weaver’s Ripley, with a simple glance Theron endows her character with a force no weapon or fully armored vehicle can. Here is a woman who has learned to maintain her humanity in the midst of this male-driven maelstrom. Her performance is so vital, so powerful and yet so subtle that it’s easy to take it for granted given the non-stop action on screen.

Miller is a consummate world builder, aware of the social roles and connections that hold these worlds together. Here he has built one of his most tactile ones, a world that one can acknowledge is the next de-evolutionary step of the decay that preceded it. It’s a world where women are nursed for milk or are impregnated to create the perfect human, where water is cruelly rationed and acolytes are sprayed with a silver hallucinogenic aerosol to instill a warlike rage in them. A world where a flame-throwing guitar player is strapped to gigantic speakers to provide background music to Joe’s mad desert chases. But there is room for hope and redemption in this nightmarish vision of our future. Miller strikes a beautiful balance in the film’s second half as he acknowledges and celebrates his characters’ hidden humanity as they plow through dozens of cars on their way to their future.

The action sequences may be a wonder to behold…but so is John Seale’s cinematography. His cameras take you right into the action, tracking and even flying at full throttle over these vehicles, closing in on their characters as they engage mano a mano on top of their rigs. His lens and filters capture these landscapes’ rich colors: the bright orange of the deserts and cool blue for the nighttime scenes. Kudos also go to the sound effects team and composer Junkie XL for creating the best aural experience any moviegoer will enjoy this year. I would also be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge the work of editors Jason Ballantine and Margaret Sixer: they ramp up the tension and excitement without calling too much attention to their work.

Whether they involve tap dancing penguins, the misadventures of a cute pig in the farm or the big city, or the shenanigans of a trio of suburban witches, or a chase across the desert, George Miller’s films are always in perpetual motion. One could even argue that no other filmmaker, alive or dead, embraces with so much passion and ingenuity the narrative and technical possibilities of the moving image. And with “Mad Max: Fury Road” Miller, with the help of second unit director Guy Norris, has delivered the definitive moving picture experience: a blockbuster where all the elements fit perfectly.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=26973&reviewer=434
originally posted: 05/14/15 15:03:24
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2015 Cannes Film Festival For more in the 2015 Cannes Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

9/16/19 Tommy Soulless and dull. Beyond Thunderdome doesn't seem so bad anymore. 2 stars
6/11/19 bored mom Immortan Joe himself says it best: "MEDIOCRE" 3 stars
8/22/17 Mark Louis Baumgart So shiny. So chrome. I live! I die! I LIVE AGAIN!!! 5 stars
5/29/17 Danny Embarrasingly bad, feminist propaganda. 1 stars
10/29/16 morris campbell the plot was messy but still the best action movie of 2015 5 stars
9/08/16 Yaz What was the point of practical stunts if everything was sped up and looked videogame like? 1 stars
6/18/16 Oz1701 Stunts were amazing. Charlize was terrific. Plotting was terrible. 2 stars
1/21/16 DVM Absolutely terrible. An insult to my intelligence. 1 stars
10/26/15 Johnnyfaye Often called a masterpiece, for how simple it is, it's refreshing lack of CGI, fantastic. 5 stars
10/17/15 christefan26 Best movie I've scene in a long time and I watch movies constantly 5 stars
10/04/15 G. Best action movie this year. 5 stars
8/27/15 Billy34 Mad Max minus the screen presence, charisma and his balls. 1 stars
8/24/15 DillonG Incredibly fun from beginning to end! Everything I want out of a blockbuster. 5 stars
7/26/15 jd shit review, shit comments, great movie 5 stars
6/24/15 Cal L Mundane Max tags along with Mad Maxine and glamourous models 1 stars
6/23/15 wfibcdxjl USA 5 stars
6/08/15 TonyK The baddies chase the goodies ..thats it! 2 stars
6/07/15 Lisa H I can't remember the last time I got so bored with an action movie. 2 stars
6/05/15 mr.mike Good, not great, remake. 4 stars
6/01/15 Charles Tatum Throws you in and never lets up 5 stars
5/29/15 Nancy Love! Adrenaline-rushy, cool imagery, action-packed. 5 stars
5/28/15 Joey C The Road Warrior is still the best. This sucked and Tom Hardy was terrible. 1 stars
5/25/15 Damien240 Spectacular, exhilarating action, stunning visuals. Falls just short of a masterpiece. 5 stars
5/24/15 David Marsden Too much repetitive action, too much CGI, and Tom Hardy sucks. Mel is Max. 1 stars
5/21/15 David Hollingsworth An action thrill ride that actually delivers 4 stars
5/20/15 Toni Peluso Awesome. A spectacle in every wonderful way. 5 stars
5/20/15 Meep Good solid action film, but far from the masterpiece some want you to believe 4 stars
5/18/15 KingNeutron Unable to understand dialogue and I honestly got bored with it. 3 stars
5/16/15 Bob Dog Too much of a good thing... 2 stars
5/15/15 Slayer Feminist propaganda bullshit 1 stars
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  15-May-2015 (R)
  DVD: 01-Sep-2015

  14-May-2015 (15)

  14-May-2015 (MA)
  DVD: 01-Sep-2015

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