Science fiction and fantasy                                            

Mad Max: Fury Road

directed by George Miller


The oil has run out, and the world is poisoned. Would you a) try to avoid poisoning it further, and maybe plant some seeds, or b) charge round the blasted landscape at top speed in huge, ungainly trucks that do about one mile to the gallon? This is the movie where everyone chooses b.

Perhaps it's understandable that the characters all act less than rationally, because the story is set at the end of the world. Max (Tom Hardy) is still haunted by the death of his family. Everyone else is varying degrees of starved, sick, angry, or brainwashed. Although this is a visually striking movie, in many respects it's far from beautiful. Many characters sport bulbous cancers caused by radiation, and the War Boys have a deathly whiteness that makes them look fierce and skeletal. They're like vampires, living off the blood of healthier people who they capture and turn into "blood bags". One of these is Max, who they capture and force to wear an iron mask over his face.

Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron) drives a souped-up hulking great truck out of the Citadel, to loud cheers from the inhabitants. But the mood soon changes when it emerges she's not going on a supply run at all, but is actually trying to escape with a number of the Citadel leader's wives. Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne) considers his wives his property, so he launches a convoy to track them down.

That's the background to one long, flashy car chase, involving copious explosions and stunts. And not forgetting the guitarist tied to the front of a truck, with his flamethrowing guitar. It's not a particularly clever or highbrow film, and there's scant dialogue. I kept waiting for the story to start or deepen, and it never did.

In many ways the depth of Fury Road is all in the background details of the harsh environment and the misogynistic Citadel society. The subtler messages are often drowned out by the blaring absurdity of mad-eyed War Boys and pole-swinging antics. Nux (Nicholas Hoult) is one of these: needy, attention-seeking, and desperate to sacrifice himself for a "second life" and Immortan's approval. He's almost the model of a brainwashed fundamentalist at the start of the movie.

I found the ending hard to swallow, because it takes more than a few well-aimed explosions to change a society. But at least it's consistent, because Mad Max has always been very light on realism.

The feminist angle of this movie has had a lot of hype, which is perhaps why I expected more from it. This is still Max's story rather than Furiosa's, and the fact that not every character is male isn't a massive leap forwards. It still takes a couple of guys to rescue the women at some key points in the story. So whilst the female characters do have agency, the fact that Fury Road's feminist themes are of note has more to do with how dismally sexist many big-budget films are, rather than its own strengths.

Visually, I found this movie occasionally breathtaking and always novel. In terms of the narrative, it's a bit of high-octane fluff that I enjoyed watching once, but it's not high on my list for watching a second time.

12th June 2015

Film Details

Year: 2015

Categories: Films

  Science fiction

Classification: 15

If you like this, try:

The Road cover    

The Road by John Hillcoat
A father and son search for food and hope for a better life as they travel through a barren, post-apocalyptic wasteland.

3 star rating

Review ©

Source: cinema