Mad Max: Fury Road (2015) (R)

It begins with a wink, a sly flirt to the audience, a taste of the insanity to come. It's as if Bette Davis has descended the stairs and is beckoning the viewer to buckle up for a bumpy night; yet nothing in "Mad Max: Fury Road" is ever as dignified as Davis' anti-heroine. The newest addition to the "Mad Max" franchise relishes in its insanity, found in acts of violence and cars exploding against each other. It is embodied in the bizarre, the unexplained, and the post-acocaylptic—which simultaneously feels the most genuine and the most inaccurate representation of the future yet. It takes an odd and talented, twisted director to be able to firmly define his work with such glorious contradictions; and George Miller is just the man. For an almost forty year career, his films are few and far between and aside from the "Mad Max" series, Miller is also the reason for the "Happy Feet" movies...yeah, go figure. That bears no importance to this movie, but it's kind of a fun trivia fact.
View "Fury Road" as a breath, a single breath. You take it at the beginning and hold it until your lungs burn and your eyes feel ready to pop out of your skull. It's almost too much, and often exceeds its own expectations thusly. That's not always a good thing, keep in mind. Miller's commitment to his own world is attractive as an ideal, but not as a visual or intellectual treat. "Fury Road" can often be repulsive, vile, sensationalized in the worst way, and nonsensical to the point where it's almost laughable...ah, but that's the point. Miller's bone-crunching, metal twisting, blood-spurting violence is almost enough to convince the audience of the severity of the situation.
The movie begins with a perfectly icy monologue from Max (Tom Hardy), who seems to have lost his marbles and his earth. This blue marble has long since turned to a dust bowl because of the greed of mankind and the need for expansion and power. Radiation has crippled the population and now the mads rule.
An evil leader named Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne) has made a capital city with a monopoly on the one necessary resource to survive: water. He lives in esteem, fear, and resentment from his subjects; but what are they going to do? After all, he is their life supply. Mr. Joe has made himself a harem of beautiful women who have bred him an army of white, often disfigured men. The women that get born are suggested to be recycled back into the system to make more men. It feels like a cesspool.
On one fine morning Max, haunted by flashbacks and voices, is captured by Joe's men and brought to the city. He puts up a good fight; but cannot overcome the masses of numbers.
Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron) is one of Joe's chief hunters/gatherers and she is sent out to retrieve resources from a neighboring city, no doubt already pillaged by Joe's goons. En route, she takes an unapproved detour and thus incites the wrath of the entire militia. Joe suits up and goes after her.
A lonely henchman named Nux (Nicholas Hoult) is determined to get approval from Joe, so he brings along Max, mainly as a fuel supply for his own failing blood, to track down and brink back Furiosa.
There's the setting: let the madness ensue.
All the characters mingle, weave, destroy, and assimilate each other's miniature story arcs. Miller's story as actually a delight to watch for this reason because it manages to leave you helpless to know what happens next. The rug is constantly pulled from underneath the viewer.
But it is not a faultless movie and as an intellectual commentary, which is a large part of the film, it doesn't quite satisfy my wantings. There are flirtings with feminism which don't quite flesh out, nuances about oil and water that aren't met, and other simple moments that don't feel like they belong. This is a movie that should be completely devoid of all campy sentimentality, yet it does its way in for a few moments.
Small fries in comparison with the real reason to watch the movie: the action. Yes, this is a gut-wrenching action movie and yes, it is lovely! The action sequences are by far and above the best and most ridiculously insane of anything that has been brought to screen thus far. It dwarfs the CGI attempts of superhero movies by giving its audience a taste of the steampunk orgy of monster trunk chases that it seems to be identified by. Even beyond that, the film is beautiful to look at. John Seale makes the desert look more sensational than he did for "The English Patient". It's a tremendous achievement from a technical standpoint so for that, you can't argue with the movie's appeal.
In terms of its analysis, does it really matter?
No, not really.
Miller is so swift, so adept at managing the on screen mayhem that you can forgive pretty much any sin that bobs to the surface. It is a staggering achievement and should only be regarded as such.
I live, I die, I live again!
I watch, I think, I watch again!

Score: ★★★½

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