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Mad Max: Fury Road Review - Action As Art

Out of competition in Cannes.

Rating: ˜…˜…˜…˜…˜… Back in 1979, George Miller dreamt up a movie showing a haunted man seeking vengeance in a gasoline starved wilderness. That idea came to fruition as Mad Max and was later refined in Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior, but you have to imagine the film that the doctor-cum-filmmaker originally had in mind was much closer to Mad Max: Fury Road than any of his previous features. Expanded scope, precise cinematography and flat-out commitment to a single, movie-length car chase driven by anger, regret and underlying morals, this is the Mad Max movie where vision and realisation become one. Fury Road's had a notoriously protracted production; first conceived decades ago and, once things finally got moving, suffering location issues and release date postponements (although the only sign of it in the film itself is the casting of Rosie Huntington-Whiteley). And it's this development hell that, in a perverted way, turned into a reboot that stands as the best entry in its franchise. Whereas the original trilogy was a low-budget pulp outing so fully Aussie that it was redubbed in the US, this fourth film, arriving thirty years after the last and with Tom Hardy replacing original star Mel Gibson, is a summer tentpole with a production cost over one hundred times the first film (and that's when accounting for inflation). That on paper sounds like a studio-mandated reboot of a series with little modern appeal outside of film geeks, destined to p*ss off said fans (see also Alien and Terminator), but Fury Road is in fact something incredibly unique; a massive movie with serious box office goals fronted by an auteur running with free reign. Aside from Christopher Nolan, nobody has that sort of clout, let alone someone who's only made two films with millennium (and animated kids features at that).

The film is Miller's through-and-through. His knack of making the apocalypse almost inviting is as sharp as ever, with the stark contrast of rich orange days and cool blue nights a vivid addition to his toolbox. Cinematographer John Seale, pulled out of retirement, also leaves his wheel-mark, mixing things up with jaw-dropping landscapes and close-ups so tight you can see individual grains of sand. Although it's what the film does with the action (which takes up much of the runtime) that the brilliances really becomes clear. The pace is so breakneck you'll get whiplash if you erroneously nip out to the toilet halfway through. The editing (something already pacy in the originals) is incessant, and some scenes even have a sped-up frame rate (particularly those not in vehicles, injecting a dream-like quality to the non-auto events), which only heightens the adrenaline rush. But it's not just thrills. This is action as both art and a storytelling device - character beats and plot developments are worked into the set-pieces (most of it real stunt work), gifting a purpose to every crash, punch and explosion, and also allowing for a film told in a very dialogue-light manner.

Contributor
Contributor

Film Editor (2014-2016). Loves The Usual Suspects. Hates Transformers 2. Everything else lies somewhere in the middle. Once met the Chuckle Brothers.