Movies used to have balls, even the expensive ones which opened during the summer. Nowadays you might get something like The Expendables, which tries to recapture that magic, but they always feels too slick and disingenuous.
Fury Road is as authentic as you can get. It’s a two hour movie with about ten minutes of dialogue and comes from a filmmaker who—thank God—hasn’t learned the “right way” to make a summer blockbuster. Movies as brilliant and hard hitting and mind-fuckingly maniacal as Fury Road makes me retroactively hate the more standard stuff like Avengers 2. I’m not so naive I don’t understand why movie execs don’t make movies like this anymore. No, what amazes me is a movie like Mad Max 4 can be made after 9/11 at all. It has a hell of a bite for something intended for such an increasingly sensitive society.
It’s worth noting Tom Hardy and Charlize Theoron share an equal title credit; it’s every bit “Imperator Furiosa’s” film as it is Mad Max’s and Theoron’s more than up to the challenge. Another surprising cast member is Hugh Keays-Bryne who also played the villain in the first film. This time the villain is so good he’ll remind you of no less than the likes of Hannibal Lector and Darth Vader. Nicholas Hoult (yes, the kid from About a Boy) is unrecognizable as Nux, the white-faced character who proclaims in the trailers: “Oh, what a day! What a lovely day!”
Within minutes of the opening shot, Max’s famous car gets smeared across the wasteland by the War Boys, presumably the biggest, baddest gang around. Max is thrown into captivity, turned into a walking, talking blood bag for Nux, and chained to the front of a souped-up car when he isn’t hanging upside down in a cage. Meanwhile, the villain teases the malnourished citizens of his compound with his abundance of water and Furiosa is gearing up for a trip to Gas Town she has no intention of completing; when she veers off course the chase begins. And it never, ever stops.
Director George Miller has been trying to make this movie for twenty years. It shows. You can see the decades of thought enriching each action sequence, each of which is different than the last despite using the same three elements throughout: a desert, some cars, and a handful of maniacs. I always cherish a movie that shows me something I haven’t seen before. Fury Road does this not once, but several times over.
Fury Road is easily the most exciting movie of the twenty-first century. It’s a movie that’s been hyped beyond the moon, but will pay back every ounce of that hype with pure ingenuity and the kind of thrills we got when Schwarzenegger said “I’ll be back” for the first time, when Ellen Ripley came face to face with the queen alien. Jesus, it’s been so long since we’ve had one of these movies. I came out of it feeling like I’d just survived a trip down Niagara Falls.