First things first: how did this get made? The question popped into my head several times throughout the absolute madness that is Fury Road. It’s a fitting title in that the entire film stands as one, long, bombastic “car” chase, from Point A to Point B, and then back again. But the question remains: how did George Miller convince Warner Bros. to give him $15o million to run off into the desert, sideline the titular character, and secure complete creative control? I suppose the answer doesn’t really matter, but Fury Road is so obviously and unequivocally George Miller’s, and it is all the better for it. It’s a film about human depravity and madness that feels totally mad itself.
Max Rockatansky (Tom Hardy) and Furiosa (Charlize Theron) are at the head, with the latter attempting to drive a massive tanker full of women away from Immortan Joe, a vicious warlord who uses his possession of water to control masses of disfigured and emaciated people. After discovering Furiosa’s betrayal, he pursues in an army-on-wheels. What results is high-octane action bliss. Miller himself has been quoted proclaiming his love for the action genre because it exists exclusively in cinema. With Fury Road he proves himself a master of both action and visual storytelling. Indeed, there is little dialogue. Hardy is as charismatic as ever, but gets only a large handful of lines to grumble out. Miller tells almost everything without dialogue. It’s all about sights and sounds and explosions and madness. He simultaneously conducts massive action set pieces and creates an atmosphere of steel, dust, and gasoline. This is a singular experience – likely Miller’s masterpiece. Thanks to cinematographer John Seale every frame is lush and gorgeous, and Miller makes certain every inane second is captured coherently yet firmly stamped with his own style. Junkie XL’s music could not be more perfect, and the combination of direction, design, sound, imagery, totally mad choreography, and kinetic editing takes Fury Road to Valhalla, pun intended.
Underneath the dusty, pulsing, crazy imagery – all of which is absolute brilliance – Fury Road finds Miller examining what happens to human beings after “the world ends” in a way I personally have never seen. This too is a stroke of brilliance. The atmosphere is so heavy, bleak, barren, and ripe with nihilism (“What a lovely day!” Nicholas Hoult’s character gleefully shouts as he drives into a gargantuan dust storm), depicting gluttonous, abusive, oppressive warlords controlling a world where life is not created or cherished, but manufactured. Immortan Joe has numerous “wives” (slaves), intent on furthering his blood line. Other women are fed until they are grotesquely obese and attached to milking machines. Milk itself becomes a symbol for life and hope amidst all of the depravity. In a genre so often packed with testosterone, most of Fury Road‘s main characters not named “Max” are women. Miller’s film is a breath of fresh air, proudly proclaiming that this will become the world if it is left to us boys alone. Fury Road is the pinnacle of action cinema: an individualistic champion of hope, yet still as mad as its titular character – and I mean that in the best way possible.
★★★★½ out of 5