Mad Max: Fury Road review - 'Strap yourself in. It’s a hell of a ride'
At the time of going to press, some very curious and unprecedented chatter was doing the rounds online: namely, that Mad Max: Fury Road could well be in line for Oscar glory next year.
It’s not usually chatter afforded to wallet-busting action wheezes, but thanks to Oscar-winning cinematographer John Seale, this film has the makings of a winner. And the look of the craziest, most delirious spectacle you’re likely to lay eyes on this year. As in, sit too close and you might lose your nachos.
The fourth instalment of Mad Max is packed to the gills with big names, but first, a moment of reverence for the film’s director, George Miller.
As the man behind the original 1979 Mad Max blockbuster, the Australian director’s career has taken him hither and thither in Hollywood, from Babe: Pig In The City to Happy Feet. Long story short: we’re in safe enough hands here behind the camera.
And Miller’s throwing everything at his disposal — technology, cash, vast dusty vistas — to create the epic to end them all.
And it’s all needed to create the desperation of this arid, post-apocalyptic world. Calling the shots is Immortal Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne), who controls the population’s water supply and produces vast amounts of mother’s milk from his own battery farm of imprisoned pregnant women.
One of his captives, Max Rockatansky (Tom Hardy), decides to escape, falling in with Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron), another defector.
She is heading back to the oasis that she was snatched from as a child. Trailing her are a raggle taggle of comely sirens; beautiful breeders that warlord Joe wants to have babies with.
Incandescent with rage, Joe chases after them. A showdown of biblical proportions is inevitable.
Out in front of the camera, things are equally as promising as behind it. Tom Hardy, playing our hero Max, has emerged relatively unscathed from Child 44 where he was caught rapid channelling the Count from Sesame Street.
This time round, he’s playing a straight-up hero, no twist. With the right amounts of humanity, herculean strength and tenacity, he’s a compelling Max, if a man of few words and fewer emotions.
Charlize Theron, meanwhile, playing the haunted Imperator Furiosa, is equally compelling. Rosie Huntington-Whiteley looks properly luscious in the role of Splendid, a doomed breeder. Props, too, go to Nicholas Hoult, playing wild-eyed foot soldier Nux with vim.
Ambition of scale does not automatically equate greatness (remember Waterworld?), but in this case, the eye-popping extravagance is a real joy. It’s loud and boisterous to a nerve-jangling point. The action sequences, which are hyper-stylised, unfold at velocities that will make your head spin.
Every so often though, the whole juggernaut runs off the reservation, drunk on its own spectacle. For reasons best known to the film’s creators, the warlord is accompanied by his very own metal guitarist and drummers playing atop a truck (techno, it seems, did not survive the apocalypse. Soz). The pudding is officially over-iced.
But a film that uses 3,500 storyboards and 480 hours of raw footage wasn’t really fated to be a cinematic turkey. It’s not so much Mad Max as… well, maximum madness. Strap yourself in. It’s a hell of a ride.
Starring Tom Hardy, Charlize Theron, Nicholas Hoult, Hugh Keays-Byrne, Rosie Huntington-Whitley, Riley Keough, Josh Helman, Abbey Lee, Zoe Kravitz. Director: George Miller. Riley Keough. Cert: 15A
Read Paul Whitington's review: Mad Max: Fury Road review - 'a scintillating action picture, breathlessly edited, glorious to look at'