Rates: * * * * *
Why Did I Watch It? Blank Check pod were doing George Miller and it seemed like the ideal time for a re-watch.
Max’s world is fire, and blood. Once a cop, now a scavenger, he lives moment to moment in a nightmarish future that looks more likely by the year. In the fourth film in the series, Max is drawn to another of the underdog causes he is often drawn to, this time helping a group of women escape the clutches of the vile Immortan Joe.
But the path along the Fury Road is long, bloody and dangerous and, to add some real degree of difficulty, will have to be run twice.
Thirty years after Thunderdome, George Miller finally returned to his prize property, having had a number of false starts trying to get the film up in the ensuing years. Mel Gibson’s implosion, 9/11, the weather, and the fickle fortunes of studio film making all conspired against him in that time, which helps make the film he did eventually produce all the more astounding.
For this, is probably THE action film.
It will inevitably be surpassed, but as at time of writing, five years after its release, it does seem like the pinnacle of the genre to date. This is an action film diluted to its basest elements; the hero, the villain, the chase sequence, with everything else stripped out, and the remaining elements heightened to breaking point.
Having read the recent New York Times oral history, and listened to a Blank Check deep dive, it is no surprise to hear that this was a very difficult shoot. The conditions were physically demanding, and Miller’s determination to do as much as possible in camera, while struggling to articulate his vision, lead to a lengthy production and frayed tempers. He also shot so much footage (470 hours worth) that his editors had to spend 3 months just watching it all, before they could start to cut; it would take two years of editing to produce the final version.
But all of this behind the scenes information is just a bit of interesting context. When this film is up and running it is genuinely thrilling; even watching it at home, where it does lose a little bit of its juice, the big set piece road battle sequences are absolutely incredible. The stunts, cinematography, production design are all as good as you will see, and watching 50 cars flash through the Namibian desert is kinetic and exciting.
With Mad Max, Miller did the hardest of things in any creative field; come up with something completely new. And here his unusual and wild ideas have been extended to their max(!)imum limit.
He has also added some interesting modern detail; primarily the introduction of a powerhouse female character, Furiosa, played with unflinching steel by Charlize Theron. This is really her story, it is right in the title, and it is interesting to see Max (well played by Tom Hardy), serve as her foil. He is drawn in by the strength of Furiosa’s conviction, just like you are.
You could also probably read a lot into the ‘War Boys’, the cult of personality around Joe, the way a powerful few control the scarce resources of this damaged environment; there are a lot of parallels to contemporary issues and events. But Miller is skillful at folding these into the background, allowing them to be noticed and add some depth, without banging you over the head with them and saying, ‘see?’
This is a fully realised vision; a top shelf director using all his years of experience to marshal a team of creative genius types, who in combination have produced something bold and unique.