While writing these reviews, I’ve tried to be as critical as possible. To me that means a comprehensive and thorough examination of a film. Every piece of a film should work towards a common goal. Whether that goal is atmosphere, story, or experience, every piece should be the unique and perfect thing that the film needs. The most ubiquitous example is casting. Casting like Frances McDormand in Three Billboards or Bruce Campbell in the Evil Dead series results in a performance that could not be replicated; any attempt would just be deemed an impression. Casting is, of course, only a piece of the puzzle. It is only when I feel this kind of filmmaking – when every piece comes together – that I think a film deserves five stars. In context of the Mad Max franchise, Fury Road has the best parts of every previous entry and more. It has a solid story, themes of loss that Mad Max deals with, and high quality acting. The creative action and production design from The Road Warrior are here better than ever. This one has the scale and world of Beyond Thunderdome, along with a more moral and allegorical story. Fury Road is the perfect amalgamation of the series, yet distinctly it’s own thing. All things considered, I think that this movie is one of the very few that deserves a perfect score.
Fury Road starts in the Citadel, an oasis run by the oppressive Immortan Joe, who has an army called the Warboys and a fleet of souped-up cars to rival Jay Leno’s. The story follows Furiosa, one of Joe’s lieutenants, as she tries to save Joe’s five wives from their oppressive existence. Max is a prisoner of one of the Warboys, Nux, and is thrown in league with Furiosa to escape the war party pursuing her. Furiosa drives the War Rig, a massive tanker truck armed to the teeth; it becomes the home base for the escaping gang. Their drive towards the mysterious “Green Place,” becomes an all-out brawl in the open wasteland.
That’s it. The plot is simple: they drive one way, then in a twist, they drive back. The story stays simple and out of the way. But the little that’s there is well done and thematic. Furiosa is an awesome lead, but she isn’t the perfect female warrior. She’s strong and resourceful, but broken. She’s human. And that’s really nice to see. She kicks also ass, so that’s a huge plus. Max is really just along for the ride, but it is not his story; it’s Furiosa’s. Max’s character is also the best mix of the past films. There’s an innate need for him to be good but the trauma of lost loved ones haunts him. He’s a bit of a hermit, but is forced to work with and trust Furiosa and her group. There’s not a weak character in the whole story. Immortan Joe is properly sinister and a great counterpart to Furiosa.
The acting is excellent. The eccentricity of the characters is present without sacrificing the impact and power of the movie. Tom Hardy inherits the role well and plays quiet, crazy guy really well. Charlize Theron is a badass. They both exert so much effort it feels like they were actually doing all of their stunts, and they did a lot of them, but with ample hydration and rest because y’know, they’re movie stars. Nicholas Hoult plays Nux as properly unhinged, but with a surprising amount of emotion that is necessary for later in the film.
I can only imagine the logistical nightmares that happened during filming. There is a long and troubled history of acquiring funding for this movie, but even when they secured it (20ish years after a sequel was conceived) the amount of practical effects that Miller calls for is unreal. You can see the practical effects in Road Warrior, but in Fury Road everything is bigger and better. The cars are not just scrappy vehicles: they are status symbols, war machines and off-road vehicles. These cars were built. They were fully functional. People jumped off them. Holy crap. It was all worth it. There are certain details that just cannot be replicated with CGI. When the double V8 hot rod dubbed “Bigfoot” jumps in front of the War Rig and hits the ground, the suspension buckles so much that the front corner of the grill just barely touches the ground. The people hanging off the car are wildly screaming with joy. The car takes the hit and keeps moving at full speed. They are also seamlessly blended with the CGI. The giant sandstorm sequence had to be CGI, but going straight from the practical to CGI worked so well. So much praise goes to everyone who designed the cars, the stunts, and the whole aesthetic. The effort pays off for some spectacular sequences.
And it’s all captured with fantastic cinematography. The explosions are so brilliantly red and the sky such a pure blue; it makes everything so much more emotionally impressive. Immortan Joe’s red eyes against the white of his skin, orange of the desert, and off yellow of his hair pop out and burn themselves into your mind. The nights on the deserts are moody blues and purples, which create a huge difference between night and day. It breaks up the visuals so it’s just two hours of orange and blue. Everything moves so nimbly. The car shots are especially crazy. They can go from close up, to one person hanging on a car, to a wide shot, to a pan across just in time to catch a car jumping over another car and blowing stuff up. Everything is so exciting; it makes even the most mundane situations heightened.
I love this movie. It is so cool. The cinematography is brilliant. The acting is gritty. The stunts are skillfully executed. The story is wonderfully simple. This is a well-made movie, plain and simple. To describe those two hours as well spent would be an understatement. If I could spend a day inside of Fury Road, I would in a heartbeat.