Combustible Celluloid
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With: Tom Hardy, Charlize Theron, Nicholas Hoult, Zoë Kravitz, Hugh Keays-Byrne, Josh Helman, Nathan Jones, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, Riley Keough, Abbey Lee, Courtney Eaton, John Howard, Richard Carter, Iota, Angus Sampson, Jennifer Hagan, Coco Jack Gillies
Written by: George Miller, Brendan McCarthy, Nick Lathouris
Directed by: George Miller
MPAA Rating: R for intense sequences of violence throughout, and for disturbing images
Running Time: 120
Date: 05/14/2015

Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)

4 Stars (out of 4)

The Mother of All Action Movies

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

It's startling to think that Mad Max: Fury Road, the fourth movie in the series, comes a full thirty years after the third, Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome. It's further startling to realize that the director of the previous three, the underrated visionary George Miller, is still at the helm.

Like Buster Keaton's The General, the movie basically consists of two long, astounding, impeccably designed chase scenes. The incredible array of physical objects moving through space in unique ways makes it seem limitlessly inventive, in a way that's far more artistic than the basic button-pushing of something like Furious 7. There are cars shaped like spiked porcupines, cars with bending, steel fishing rods topped with riders, and even a truck whose sole purpose is to provide chase music.

In an elevated stronghold, a faceless villain in a sneering skeleton mask, known as Immortan Joe, rules by controlling both water and fuel. One of his most powerful warriors, Furiosa (Charlize Theron), leaves in a battle-equipped truck for a routine supply run, but suddenly veers east. It turns out she has rescued Joe's harem of young wives (played by Zoë Kravitz, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, and other beauties), whose purpose is to be impregnated, and plans to take them to "The Green Place," where they can be free.

Our hero, Mad Max (Tom Hardy, taking over for Mel Gibson), starts off captured (and used as a live blood bank), escapes, and winds up helping Furiosa. One of Joe's drivers, Nux (Nicholas Hoult), becomes disillusioned, and joins in as well.

In some ways, this plot recalls Miller's The Witches of Eastwick, with its consideration of women and motherhood.

It would be pretty easy to suggest that women create and men destroy, but Miller goes deeper and continually crosses up his imagery, such as a striking moment where Max washes blood from his face with mother's milk. Water, gasoline, blood, and milk constantly clash against the dry desert race track.

The "Mad" in the title comes into play more directly in this movie; with Gibson it meant simply acting loony, but Hardy — hearing voices in his head — seems at one with violence. For all its orchestrated brilliance, the violence in this movie doesn't just thrill. It has the ability to snap at you, to make you consider its brutal consequences.

Given that Miller is also behind the Babe and Happy Feet movies, it makes sense that he has an empathy much larger than normal action mongers. He seems to understand how madness and violence go hand in hand.

Warner Home Video has released a top-notch Blu-ray edition, with truly extraordinary picture and sound. It comes with several little behind-the-scenes featurettes, interviews, and deleted scenes. It also has several language tracks and optional subtitles. It's a movie that has stuck in my brain since I've seen it and only grown richer the more I ponder it. It's definitely worth owning, and revisiting.

Note: this review has been upgraded from its original 3-1/2 star rating to a 4 star rating.

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