Thirty years after Mad Max came through the ordeals of Beyond Thunderdome, George Miller’s iconic road warrior roars into action again for his fourth screen adventure, a two-hour thrill-ride of a movie so supercharged with adrenaline-surging excitement it leaves its cinematic rivals in the dust.
Believe me. When it comes to foot-down, hell-for-leather exhilaration, Mad Max: Fury Road makes the Fast & Furious franchise resemble a spin in a Reliant Robin.
Slipping ruggedly into Mel Gibson’s battered black jacket, Tom Hardy is the new Max. As before, he’s a badass loner, haunted by a tragic past and adrift in a barren post-apocalyptic world. Civilisation has totally broken down and in its place are marauding bands and savage warlords who control the most prized resources: fuel, munitions, water.
The most savage warlord of all is Immortan Joe, a grotesque villain played by Hugh Keays-Byrne (Toecutter in the original 1979 Mad Max), and it is the fact that he prizes a further scarce resource even more that kick-starts the movie’s streamlined plot when his five wives make their bid for freedom.
Incarcerated as a breeding harem in the Immortan’s fortress-like Citadel, the women are sprung by Charlize Theron’s fiercely resilient, one-armed heroine, Imperator Furiosa, who diverts one of the warlord’s war rigs on a dash for freedom across the surrounding wastelands.
Having fallen into the Immortan’s clutches, Max gets unwillingly swept up in the escape attempt after being strapped to the front of one of the pursuing vehicles like a bonnet ornament or ship’s figurehead (he is actually there as a human blood bag for the car’s driver, Nicholas Hoult’s gung-ho but sickly Nux).
And one long chase is essentially what follows. It’s absurdly thrilling. But what makes Fury Road so deeply enjoyable is that the stunts and explosions are securely underpinned by the fascinating mythology Miller has developed over four movies and richly decorated with masses of weird and offbeat details.
Something else, however, gives the movie unexpected resonance. Ponder the fate of the story’s kidnapped and raped women or the Immortan’s War Boys, brainwashed by a superstitious fable into pursuing a glorious death, and the parallels with Boko Haram and Isis means that it is not a terrifying future but the scary present that is the film’s real nightmare.
Certificate 15. Runtime 120 mins. Director George Miller.