Tom Hardy Charlize Theron Nicholas Hoult Hugh Keays-Byrne
In a post apocalyptic world, Max (Hardy)—the silent type—guiltily broods about not having saved his loved ones. He is so “haunted by the living and the dead”, he doesn’t know whether he is mad or everyone else is. The hallucinations plague him so much they distract him at critical times, causing him to slip up and allow someone else to take advantage of him. As he’s a loner, these images are his most constant companions amidst repeated life-threatening attacks by war parties cruising the land, intent on bringing everyone under the power of Immortan Joe (Keays-Byrne). Not only does Joe hog almost all the available water for himself and dole it out to the public in the scantiest way he can think of, he keeps a number of wives who are “breed cows” making children that will resemble him.
After Max manages to escape from being an attachment at the front of a fierce warrior’s vehicle, his path crosses that of Furioso (Theron) and they each grab their weapons and guardedly become acquainted, but it will be some time before a modicum of trust is built up. She is driving a wondrous junk heap of a truck that spews and sputters, but is equipped with all kinds of tools and weapons for defense. Secretly, she is driving five of Joe’s wives to the “green place” where there will be hope for them to establish satisfying lives. All the women are heroically skillful in adapting tools and fighting their way out of a jam. In fact, a strong point of the film for me is that there is little difference between the male and female roles when the women get a chance to fend for themselves and go beyond simple breeding. Tom Hardy and Charlize Theron are perfectly cast, with alarming tugs of war, then oh-so-gradual softening and respect for one another.
Much of the film is this small motley group fleeing Joe, with his war parties nipping at their heels—or their back bumper. There is one kind of loud violence after another, with pyrotechnics bursting in the air, sloshing mud underneath them, gunfire going in all directions, and hair-raising deaths. Yet, George Miller, the director and co-writer with Brendan McCarthy and Nick Lathouris, manage to weave an allegory about finding/creating one’s authentic self in the desert through much suffering and effort, so characters develop and change across time (shout-out to Nicholas Hoult). Unlike with many action films, I wasn't waiting just for it all to be over.
In fact, this is one of the most unusual action films I’ve seen. Not only is there an interesting, suspenseful story, there are creative special effects that allow for elaborate stunt work (Guy Norris et al.) and contraptions to use as props, breathtaking scenery that shows a natural but ruined world, spectacular camera work (John Seale), and a soaring musical score (Junkie XL) with a red-suited, screaming electric guitarist stuck in the middle and playing for all he’s worth.
More than your usual action movie.
Grade: A By Donna R. Copeland