Film review: Mad Max: Fury Road

Mad Max: Fury Road. Picture: Warner Bros. Pictures

Mad Max: Fury Road. Picture: Warner Bros. Pictures - Credit: Archant

While Tom Hardy falls short, the latest chapter of this groundbreaking franchise is an action-packed triumph, says Michael Joyce.

A new Mad Max film, three decades on, without Mel but with Miller, always seemed like the year’s most intriguing but perilous project. Hardy in the lead: he is definitely mad enough, but would he be Max enough? Miller going back after years of making drama and kids’ films: would it be like George Lucas returning to make the Star Wars prequels? Hardy’s actually a rather underwhelming Max – a grunting, uncharismatic brute – but Miller’s film is as Mad and as Max as you could possibly want it to be.

In the ‘80s, along with Spielberg and Raiders of The Lost Ark, Mad Max 2 invented the modern action movie as we know it. Prior to these, audiences had absolutely no idea films were allowed to be that exciting. They were like the show reel of movie good bits that spun through our heads, but smarter and wittier than we could imagine.

Miller’s been away a long time. Fury Road doesn’t merely suggest that he hasn’t lost his touch, it’s an object lesson to the rest of Hollywood about how these things should be done. The spur for the movie is simple: make a whole film like the final chase sequence in Mad Max 2 but do it using all the modern technology. And yes, there is plenty of CGI in Fury Road but there are also plenty of real stunts. Most CGI action sequences are a series of pretty pictures for you to sit and admire; the sequences in Fury Road will have you bouncing in your seat with excitement. You couldn’t be more involved in the action if you had bet money on its outcome.

The technological advances have allowed Miller’s imagination to run very wild. We have had precious little practical benefit from the second Gulf War – the mother of all overblown, ill-advised sequels that failed to recapture the significance of the original – but it provides the main inspiration here. It isn’t just the shots of oil tankers careering across barren desert terrain, or the suicidal warriors who believe that martyrdom beckons, it’s more the nihilistic sense that everything is permissible, nothing is too extreme. Fury Road is like Cirque Du Soleil performing their interpretation of The Hills Have Eyes, on wheels.

Rating: 4/5 stars