2015’s Mad Max: Fury Road, directed by George Miller, is a triumph of cinema in every sense with an electric story, unbelievable action, and an impressive cast
I went without seeing Mad Max: Fury Road (2015) for a long time and now that has become a major regret of mine. The film is a sensational rush and one of the most beautiful pieces of cinema that I have seen in my life. With the spin-off prequel Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga finally set for release in 2024 after being stuck in development, perhaps I discovered Fury Road exactly when I was meant to.
Mad Max: Fury Road follows antihero protagonist Max Rockatansky (Tom Hardy) in a post-apocalyptic desert wasteland where items that we are accustomed to having, such as water and gas, are scarce. Max reluctantly joins forces with Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron) against a tyrant by the name of Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne) leading to a battle along the so-called Fury Road.
What George Miller has done here from a directorial standpoint is nothing short of extraordinary. The sheer amount of incredible visual storytelling, plus the car action sequences that make The Fast and the Furious franchise and others look like absolute child’s play in comparison would have been enough for me to enjoy this. Miller puts enough detail into each frame that one can take in the story and its characters without any dialogue at all. The narrative is something only he could cook up and manages to instantly grab your attention, not letting it go until the credits roll.
Everything here feels fresh in spite of the fact that we have seen Max Rockatansky in three films prior to this one. Miller places Tom Hardy in the title role and gives audiences a version of the character that feels familiar and new at the same time. His journey is incredibly interesting, and Hardy must work with a lot less on-screen dialogue to convey it. Max has clearly already been through a lot, regardless of whether this film takes place after Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome (1985) or not. Max finding the will to continue and help others despite what the world has taken from him is a beautiful thing.
The journeys of Imperator Furiosa, Nux (Nicholas Hoult) and each of the five wives of Hugh Keays-Byrne’s Immortan Joe are just as tremendous. It is not often that you get so many characters with fulfilling arcs. Miller and his co-writers, Brendan McCarthy and Nico Lathouris also use each character to assist in the world building, and solid building along with great characters will keep you invested beyond any amount of action.
Furiosa is such an iconic character, with a distinctive design and emotional story, it is easy to see why Miller chose to make a prequel centered on her his focus in addition to the follow-ups to Mad Max: Fury Road that have now stalled. She is just as important to the narrative as Max and pairing them together was a superb choice by Miller given how alike and different the two are. Furiosa has plenty of what one would consider to be star moments, with Theron’s performance knocking it out of the park every time. The talented Anya Taylor-Joy has a tall task ahead of her stepping into this role in Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga, but I cannot wait to see more of the character along with whatever else Miller has in store for audiences.
The action in Mad Max: Fury Road is of course, quite a sight to behold. Never before or since will you see a bombastic car chase where a man plays a fire breathing guitar. All the chases and fights are shot with such precision. It is nearly impossible not to feel some sort of rush with the way things escalate and just keep moving. Not only that, but Miller makes sure that all the action has a purpose and is not just there for no logical reason.
The hand-to-hand combat and gunplay are also quite intense. Viewers can see the impact of the shots and punches (particularly ones thrown by Max and Furiosa, who have their own unique fighting styles but a similar energy). With the way that Miller helps frame them from the director’s chair and uses excellent sound design, you are also able to feel them from your seat. Max’s moments of adrenaline are just as memorable as you will remember them being if you have seen the previous three installments. This is because Miller knows that audiences are expecting Max to go mad and finds the perfect places to give him that jolt.
If you are greedy, and the story, action, and cast are not enough for you. May I present John Seale’s cinematography and Tom Holkenborg AKA Junkie XL’s score. Seale fully realizes Miller’s vision and showcases an absolute wasteland with some breathtaking shots. He makes the world of Mad Max: Fury Road look alive and decimated all at once. The way Seale shoots the night scenes is also something worth seeing. They are shot differently than anything you have likely ever seen. It becomes even more notable when you realize much of the film takes plays during the day, so I love that Seale and Miller clearly put an effort to set the night portions apart as well.
Holkenborg keeps the energy up with a rock infused score perfect for the speed at with the narrative moves. His score work in the quiet moments is just as impressive, underscoring tragic beats with an ideal tune at the drop of a hat.
From there you are likely to just keep finding more and more to love about Mad Max: Fury Road. This ensemble is totally phenomenal. and each member gives so much depth to who they are portraying. As a result, the wasteland is truly made to feel inhabited by the most insane collection of individuals. Their performances make it so easy to buy in and root for characters like Max Rockatansky, Imperator Furiosa, and each of the five wives. Tom Hardy and Charlize Theron have never been better than they are as Max and Furiosa. Both do so much with minimal dialogue, and they let the little things say so much, along with a sensational story. Their characters have such a compelling relationship and while you might think there is love between them, I think the respect that they eventually show for each other is even greater than that.
Of the five wives, Riley Keough as Capable is the standout. Her character is the most levelheaded and open. She grows as a character, but Keough’s performance is what catches your attention. You can see the star quality that she would go on to display in projects like Daisy Jones & the Six (2023). Her chemistry with Hoult as Nux is also quite a surprise, especially because it seems so natural.
While this story is probably best experienced on the big screen, you likely will not be able to get enough of it no matter how you watch it. Mad Max: Fury Road is the fastest two hours or so you will ever watch and yet there is so much put into the film that it will feel like more than that in the greatest way possible. Everything is constantly moving, but not in a way that should be overwhelming, and in all honesty, audiences will feed off this film and experience every big moment as if they are right there on the Fury Road.
Mad Max: Fury Road is not only a terrific action film, but also one of the most awe-inspiring films ever made. With a magnificent story, cast, and visuals, that is not hard for anyone to believe once they set their sights on it. I will certainly be seated for any further entries into this world, but it will be nearly impossible for them to top this.
Mad Max: Fury Road is now available to watch on digital and on demand. Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga will be released in US theaters on May 24, 2024 and internationally from May 22, 2024.