ByBenjamin Marlatt, writer at

Following a series of catastrophic events that have led to the downfall of civilization, Max Rockatansky (Tom Hardy) has been captured by the tyrannical leader King Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne) and is being used as a universal donor “blood bag” for the sickly War Boy Nux (Nicholas Hoult).

After escaping, Max runs into Furiosa (Charlize Theron), a former imperator of Joe’s who has taken his five captive wives in an effort to save them. The women look to Max for help, knowing his experience and knowledge of the many hazards within the desert wasteland, and though he initially refuses, he realizes his and Furiosa’s chances for survival depends on them joining forces in order to fight back against Joe and his gang of War Boys.

It’s been thirty years since Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome, and since that time series writer/director George Miller went on to do other projects, directing the Jack Nicholson comedy-fantasy The Witches of Eastwick, then earning Oscar nods for co-writing/directing Lorenzo’s Oil, co-writing/producing Babe and finally winning the Oscar for Best Animated Feature with Happy Feet.

Yep, that was him.

Miller came up with the idea for the fourth entry, Mad Max: Fury Road, back in 1998 and was set to shoot the film in 2001, with Mel Gibson returning as Max. However, 9/11, budgetary problems, Gibson’s legal issues and security concerns with trying to film in Namibia sentenced this film to 14 years in development hell. Fans understandably had every right to be a little apprehensive upon hearing it was finally landing a release date. Even if released back in around the early part of the 21st century, it still would’ve been at least 16 years since 1985’s Beyond Thunderdome, but it kept getting pushed back and back and back and back for another 14 years.

But now it’s finally here.

The verdict? Well, so far we’ve had two blockbuster action flicks this year, both belonging to big, money-making franchises – Furious 7 and Avengers: Age of Ultron.

Mad Max: Fury Road blows them both out of the water.

Just when you thought it couldn’t get more insane after The Road Warrior and Beyond Thunderdome, Miller amps it up to eleven here, 0-100 in 3 seconds style, delivering a worthy addition to the Mad Max series that, like prior action landmarks such as Raiders of the Lost Ark, The Road Warrior, Escape from New York, Lethal Weapon and Die Hard, manages to do everything right that an action film needs to do.

Yes, it is that good.

It’s not often you see a movie with War Boys swinging back and forth on poles as they fly in on their victims like birds of prey, roided-out bikers that could put the most skilled motocross X-Gamer to shame and an entourage of the villain Immortan Joe (in a nice nod to the very first film, Hugh Keays-Byrne, the villain Toecutter in Mad Max, plays Joe) that includes off-the-wall nuts banging on drums and heavy metal guitars.

Why does Miller put all of this in? ‘Cause he can dammit!

In an age where action sequences are burdened by the use of frantic quick cuts and shaky-cam, Mad Max: Fury Road refreshingly gives us set pieces filmed by cinematographer John Seale (challenging anyone else to make blues, reds and oranges come alive and look as stunningly gorgeous as he does here) in long, fluid, unbroken shots and wide angles (2014’s John Wick and Edge of Tomorrow also capitalized on that style). Even at the age of 70, George Miller shows he’s still a man among boys within this genre, resurrecting his post-apocalyptic vision, after a thirty year slumber, that here’s best described as breathtakingly beautiful chaos.

Michael Bay needs to be kidnapped, strapped to a chair and forced to watch this with his eyed pried wide open a la A Clockwork Orange, ’cause this is how you make an action film.

Films don’t necessarily live on style alone, and one of the great things about the Mad Max trilogy is that Miller delivers the edge of your seat action, but also a terrific lead anti-hero who was played so compellingly by Mel Gibson. That tradition continues once more with Tom Hardy filling in the big shoes left behind by Gibson in such a way that would certainly make the former Road Warrior proud.

The one who steals the show, however, is the lovely Charlize Theron who hits a home run as the buzz-cutted Furiosa. Though Aeon Flux made no effort to convince me, Theron is one badass chica here. We’re talking Ellen Ripley/Beatrix Kiddo badass, earning her tough-as-nails cred in just the superbly shot and choreographed hand-to-hand combat scene she shares with Hardy alone, but also showing shades of vulnerability through her backstory that round out her character.

Even the five queens of Immortan (Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, Zoe Kravitz, Riley Keough, Abbey Lee and Courtney Eaton), aka “breeders”, all of whom look like Vogue cover models and sport names out of a GWAR song playlist, each get a moment or two to show off their own style of toughness.

The action is certainly a feast for the eyes, but the amount of emotional heft provided by Hardy, Theron and an unrecognizable Nicholas Hoult raises the perilous stakes for their characters. It’s a dog-eat-dog world, but there’s still some shred of humanity found in them. The only reason they fight like savages is ’cause the bloodthirsty monsters they’re up against leave them no other choice.

Do you need to see the original trilogy to get any of this? Not really. Though the timeline for Fury Road exists somewhere in between The Road Warrior and Beyond Thunderdome, Miller lets this work as a standalone film (a wise move given the number of years in between this and the last film). That said, I would recommend seeing any of the first three beforehand. I say that only ’cause this film is such a kick in the balls worth of insanity that it might help to see how it gradually got to that level of bat-shit crazy, even though the narrative and characters won’t be confusing to those going in fresh.

Mad Max: Fury Road contains all the first-rate, pedal to the metal, adrenaline-pumping action a fan could ever ask for, while also providing us with two strong performances from Tom Hardy and Charlize Theron, both of whom reign in the madness by injecting enough heart into their lead characters. Despite it being three decades since the last Mad Max feature, franchise creator George Miller proves he hasn’t lost a single step in all that time, bringing us the best pure action film of this decade.

I give Mad Max: Fury Road an A+ (★★★★).

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