Mad Max: Fury Road

Mad Max: Fury Road

(MA15+) Tom Hardy, Charlize Theron, Nicholas Hoult

Do you remember Mad Max, Mad Max II: The Road Warrior or Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome?

Many in the film industry credit George Miller with developing the post-apocalyptic genre. That might be a bit generous, but his vision of the future is dark and depressing yet vivid and cinematic. Given it’s been 30 years since Thunderdome, is it worth revisiting Max’s world?

Mad Max: Fury Road preview from The Big Picture on Vimeo.

The brilliance of George Miller’s Mad Max: Fury Road is difficult to put into words. He seems to be giving us a film-making lesson in conveying depth with minimal dialogue. Miller has magnificently choreographed the action to communicate every nuance of the film — from the back story, to justification for desperate acts of disobedience and violence — with barely any dialogue. This is a visceral experience unlike any recent action film. Fury Road blasts onto the screen and never lets its foot off the pedal until the credits roll.

This new Mad Max is a portrait of a violent, post-apocalyptic world. It delivers a stark view of humanity but, within the violence and despair of the human experience, there can be hope. It was a mind-blowing surprise to find that cinematic gem of hope in the dead landscape of Mad Max’s world, but you need to see it to believe it.

Having transformed from original star Mel Gibson into modern action man Tom Hardy, Max lives an existence of sheer survival. As a former police officer and family man, he is now a tortured shell of the man of justice he used to be. After being captured by the leading cult forces of this futuristic wasteland, he finds himself in the middle of a pursuit involving Furiosa (Charlize Theron) and the wives of the masked Immortan Joe (Hugh Keyes-Byrne). Max becomes the pivotal force to assist in Furiosa’s escape — and desired redemption.

Fury Road becomes a race for life, redemption and hope. Shot in the barren deserts of Namibia, the fight for life becomes an adrenaline-charged chess match – one wrong move will cost you your life. No summary can do the action justice, except to say that it has set the bar unbelievably high and needs to be seen to be experienced.

We are given a “fresh” storyline for the fourth outing of this character and his mad world, as well as a wealth of new characters for a new generation. It is not necessary to see the original films to enjoy this chapter in Max’s adventures, but it might be worth going back to watch the first two films.

The cast are captivating and effective in their roles, but they have to take a back seat to the energetic stunt work and effects. This world seems to be a maniacal and messy existence but, as a viewer, delivers an enjoyable, orchestrated primal experience. Not to dismiss the acting, though, because Hardy is brilliant as the tortured lead character. He delivers a believable portrait of his desire to survive the present while mentally enduring his past. He is given minimal dialogue, but is able to become the heart of this post-apocalyptic tale.

Interestingly, Hardy is not the primary lead in the film that bears his character’s name. Theron’s shining portrayal of Furiosa is the literal and figurative driver of Fury Road. She manages to redefine feminine heroism for film-makers. She has strength, purpose and a sacrificial depth that presses the story beyond one mindless chase scene.

In a genre that tends to victimise or sexualise the female leads, Miller portrays a strong female lead without any unnecessary feminist underpinnings. In masking her natural beauty, Theron is allowed to develop her strengths and vulnerabilities without making a political statement. Both Hardy and Theron are supported by an excellent cast. They all help to move this experience from a mere adrenaline rush to a story about fighting for your right to live, realising sacrifice is part of freedom, and that, ultimately, hope for the redemption of mankind might possibly exist.

On many levels, Miller seems to acknowledge that action without reason loses its purpose. In adding a spiritual component, he allows for depth in the streamlined script. Immortan Joe is the cult leader in this dark, twisted world. Early on during Fury Road, Joe delivers a dark and demented message about the need for effective leadership and that leaders need to provide people with purpose for their sacrifice, even if it is misplaced. This story shows that there is a basic need for something beyond our material needs that gives society drive and direction.

The flower on this desert wasteland is hope. Even the jaded heart of Max is turned and he assists in getting those under his charge to their promised land. He also provides them with hope, in the bleakest of moments. Miller manages to capture this element, allowing the story to ponder the realities of mankind’s history and future.

If Fury Road does have a weakness, it would the conclusion. In all that Max, Furiosa and their posse desire to achieve, there is an empty satisfaction at journey’s end. As for what audience members might like to do when they reach the end of an experience like Mad Max: Fury Road, it might be worth reading through Revelation. Fortunately, with the God revealed by the Bible, there is more we can hope for in the future.

What are some of the bigger questions to consider from this film?

  1. Where is real hope found? (Deuteronomy 31:6, Romans 5:2-5)
  2. Can we find true redemption? (Psalm 111:9, 1 Corinthians 1:30)
  3. Can we exist without others? (Proverbs 18:1, 1 Corinthians 12:14)

Russell Matthews works for City Bible Forum Sydney and is a film blogger

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