MAD MAX: FURY ROAD (10 out of 10) – Directed by George Miller; Written by George Miller, Brendan McCarthy, and Nick Lathouris; Starring: Charlize Theron, Tom Hardy, Nicholas Hoult, Hugh Keays-Byrne, Josh Helman, Nathan Jones, Zoë Kravitz, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, Riley Keough, Abbey Lee, Courtney Eaton, John Howard, Richard Carter; Rated R for intense sequences of violence throughout, and for disturbing images, in wide release May 15, 2015.
Yes. Mad Max: Fury Road is just as good, if not better, than you've heard. Whether you're looking for a ridiculous spectacle of epic proportions of an action movie, or a thoughtful (but incredibly intense) musing on ecology, feminism, religion, resource allocation, you will find it here. And stuff blows up. A lot of stuff blows up.
The plot is fairly simple: Max (Tom Hardy) finds himself alone, going crazy, but now captured by a tribe ruled over by Immortan Joe, who is treated like a demi-god by his people because he controls the scarcest resource of all: water. Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron) is sent out on a resupply mission to trade water for gasoline and bullets, but it seems she has her own agenda. Instead, she has set free Immortan Joe's harem/sex slaves (let's be real, that's what they are!) and is off in search of "the Green Place," which she believes she can find.
Max is taken along as the "bloodbag" for one of Joe's WarBoys, who use his universal donor type O negative blood (and considerable strength and resilience) to transfuse into themselves to amp up for battle (in much the same way endurance cyclists would supposedly bank their own blood and then get a transfusion to increase the red blood cell count and replenish nutrients). Also amping them up for battle? a giant truck with six drummers and a heavy metal guitar player who actually provide the score for most of the intense battles. Oh, and, in case you missed it in the trailer? The guitar shoots fire.
Max finds himself between Joe's Warboys and Furiosa and generally wants no part in this dispute, but just wants to escape and be left alone.
And hijinks ensue. And by hijinks, I mean that's all in the first 15 minutes of the film. The rest of it is just one giant car chase scene for the rest of the movie.
George Miller has not only revitalized his Mad Max franchise, but in so doing has redmolded what our expectations should be for action films. It bookends well with the two other best films (so far) of 2015, "Kingsman: The Secret Service" and "Ex Machina." Kingsman was fun and a great spectacle, but not much in the way of being thinky. Ex Machina had all the thinks and all the feels. Somehow Miller manages to offer both in a film you can't wait to see again, or, even moreso, get on Blu Ray and watch repeatedly, rewinding sequences and going frame by frame to study what is truly the apotheosis of everything this director has done before.
If there is any downside of Fury Road, it is that it moves so fast that you will miss things. It has an intensity that films like "Furious 7" should be jealous of, and whips the audience along at a breakneck speed. Let me create a metaphor out of the film's content itself:
In the film, Theron's character Furiosa drives a war rig: a giant tanker truck outfitted with weapons and defensive measures.
The film moves like this giant war rig-- with a huge intensity and inertia that once it is going it is not going to stop for anything or anyone. There are dozens of tiny moments -- glances between characters, crumbs of information and exposition and world-building -- that if you blink you might miss them because the movie is going so fast. Characters are often jumping on and off the rig, finding places to grab on and stage some of the more daring fights. In this same way, there's multiple places for the audience to find purchase and get onto the movie. But it is moving so fast it expects you to keep up and keep holding on.
Also like the war rig, Furiosa is the only one who can drive it. In the hands of a less skilled director who didn't intimately know what he was doing, this could be a huge mess. But Miller, like Furiosa, has a plan, and knows exactly how to handle this gargantuan mess cobbled together from pieces of lesser cars and trucks.
There's been a lot said about whether or not this is a "feminist" movie or not. It undoubtedly is. Theron's Furiosa is the main character of this film, and is far more developed than even Max, who mostly plays the brooding sidekick role (and is also the surrogate for the audience, as he has to be explained to exactly what's going on). Furiosa kicks more ass than most male action stars do in their films. And since she is literally liberating women from sex slavery, confronting Joe that women are not property, and fighting a literal oppressive patriarchy, it's hard not to say this isn't not just a feminist film, but perhaps THE feminist action movie. (Move over, Aliens!)
But to reduce it to just being feminist belies a much greater complexity. Immortan Joe is not just a stand-in for patriarchy, but also for the worst aspects of capitalism, religion, and all other manner of great evils. (Not to say capitalism and religion are evils-- just that they can be certainly used for evil purposes.) There is also a strong undercurrent message about ecology and how we're destroying the planet. Or you can completely shut your brain off and watch this as just a plain action movie. People with agendas are certainly welcome to claim this movie as their own, but much like the cave in Empire Strikes Back, what you see therein is determined by what you take with you.
Seriously, anyone threatening to boycott this movie because they don't like some perceived agenda is a fool of the highest magnitude. You're simply denying yourself one of the greatest treats of the year, and probably encouraging your opposing side to want to go see it more. Everyone just calm yourselves down and go enjoy one of the best movies of the year? No, make that one of the best movies of the decade. MRAs and SJWs should go to the theater together, enjoy a tub of popped corn and a tasty beverage, and just watch stuff get blown up real cool.
10 out of 10.
Yes. 10 out of 10. It's just that good.