Mad Max: Fury Road is about as literal a title as you can get.
The movie’s high-octane pace races angrily through the barren wasteland of a post-apocalyptic future with a sort of visceral and kinetic energy that will leave you either breathless or hyped up like you’re on an energy drink laced with gasoline.
It takes an inspired — maniacal, even — effort to make a movie this brazen with raw emotion, and it makes you wonder why movie theaters don’t have space up front for a mosh pit.
Fury Road is heavy metal. Prepare for warfare.
The fourth installment of the Mad Max franchise, Fury Road follows Max Rockatansky (Tom Hardy) who has, by now, had most of his humanity stripped away. A lone wolf in a world gone mad — gangs of marauders fight each other for resources, gas, and munitions — Max is driven by one thing: survival.
When Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron) diverts her war rig away from Gas Town during a routine trade mission, Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne) leads his crew after her to take back the stolen Five Wives — a group of enslaved women chosen to breed perfect children.
Max becomes an unwilling participant in the chase — dying War Boy Nux (Nicholas Hoult) joins the raiding party with Max strapped to the car as a living IV bag.
The world of Fury Road is enormous with sights and sounds that make you wonder what else is going on, but the relentless focus and vision on the journey forward forces the audience to keep their eyes on the road ahead. That’s not to say the movie is one big dense brick of action that launches itself directly between the eyes — the political and economic issues that are presented carry weight and add plenty of heft to the film’s presence.
There’s a sincerity to it all — countering the bombast and over-the-top ridiculousness, there’s a method to the madness that’s gripping and subtly ironic in the most brilliant way. The incorporation of practical effects and real stunts grants a bigger payoff with an organic adrenaline-inducing effect. John Seale’s cinematography masterfully displays the orchestrated chaos, and you’d have to be the most jaded person on Earth if you’re able to walk out of the theater without your knees giving way.
On the quieter character side, Hardy’s incoherent and guttural Max might leave you wanting of more dialogue, but actions speak louder than words — Hardy’s presence can’t be denied when he’s onscreen. Theron’s performance also makes an impact — when Furiosa finds her dreams of redemption buried by the desert sands, she lets out a primal scream that must be seen to be believed.
It’s a movie that fires on all cylinders — even the silence fills the screen with heavy tension. The sights and sounds blare, fighting for territory. And yet, as over-the-top as this movie gets, it never loses its heart or the sincerity that grounds everything firmly into the wasteland dirt. Even when it raises the ridiculousness to 11 — I’m looking at you Flame Thrower Guitar Guy — it’s all for effect.
In a world where the young set their hearts on the shiny, the poor are oppressed, and humanity obsessively seeks out resources in order to build and drive the biggest, fastest car, Mad Max: Fury Road has the audacity to ask the question: Who killed the world?
Don’t think too hard. You might miss the point.