Fury Road – review by Dan McGinn

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Earlier this year, several newspapers had stories about Britain’s first proper 4D cinema.

The Mirror and the Daily Mail were among those that reported Cineworld in Milton Keynes will offer audiences 3D visuals but will enhance their film going experience by spraying them with water, shaking their
seats and recreating the scent of explosions and coffee.

God help the 4D cinemagoers of Milton Keynes if they ever screen ‘Mad Max: Fury Road’.

George Miller’s reboot of the Australian road warrior franchise is so physical, the Milton Keynes’ audience will need desert sand regularly propelled their way to experience what is going on onscreen.

The smell of burning rubber and diesel would fill the cinema for most of the screening.

And the heat of the Namibian desert on the screen seems so intense, Milton Keynes’ filmgoers might require Factor 70 sunblock.

Miller’s movie is loud, brash and very, very intense.

Set in a desert wasteland, the Aussie director reintroduces audiences to Max, originally played by Mel Gibson but now by Tom Hardy, a loner on the run from road warrior gangs who is haunted by the memory of a
daughter he failed to save.

Max is captured by the fearsome and fanatical War Boys who are ruled by Hugh Keays-Byrne’s tyrant, Immortan Joe.

Joe drills water up from the Earth’s core in his desert mountain Citadel, which he mostly keeps for himself.

He is treated like a God and periodically he gives his subjects water rations to keep them under his subjugation.

In a bizarre opening sequence, Max tries to escape Joe’s Citadel during a bizarre ‘Benny Hill’ style chase sequence through its tunnels.

However he fails and is hung upside down like a bat to be used as a human blood bag for Nicholas Hoult’s sickly member of the War Boys, Nux.

Charlize Theron’s Imperator Furiosa, meanwhile, sets out with a gang of War Boys in her tanker, apparently on a mission to collect petrol.

However, it soon becomes clear to Immortan Joe that she has duped the gang and fled his compound with his Five Wives to free them from their sexual slavery.

Joe leads a War Boys posse in hot pursuit and Nux joins in, strapping his manacled human blood bag Max to the front of his car, believing if he proves himself to his leader, he will be rewarded in Valhalla.

During the chase, Nux crashes the car and both he and Max survive.

Max stumbles upon Furiosa’s tanker and holds the women at gunpoint but soon the group realises that they should not be at odds. They share a common enemy.

But with the fanatical War Boys in relentless pursuit, can Max and Furiosa smuggle the Five Wives to safety?

Likes its predecessors, ‘Mad Max: Fury Road’ is unlike any action movie you will see this year.

Featuring Cirque du Soleil performers, it is a macabre carnival of sight and sound.

The film assaults your senses with remarkable acrobatic stunts, explosions, gunfire and a heavy metal guitarist strapped to a juggernaut.

Miller, who made his name directing the original ‘Mad Max’ trilogy between 1979 and 1985, had planned to revive the franchise 12 years ago but was thwarted by the outbreak of the Iraq War and by Mel Gibson
losing interest.

Heath Ledger was mooted for the role but that was scuppered when the star died in 2008.

It wasn’t until 2011 when Miller would eventually find his man – Londoner, Tom Hardy who acquits himself well.

A charismatic presence on the big and small screen, Hardy brings the kind of depth and intensity you’d expect to Max.

His character is scarred both physically and emotionally to the point where he is wary of the company of others, even his natural allies.

But while Hardy is the eponymous anti-hero, he isn’t the sole star of the show.

South African Oscar winner Charlize Theron shares top billing and proves every bit as hard edged as her male co-star in a scene stealing, tough as iron role.

With her Sigourney Weaver/Ripley cropped hair and oil smeared forehead, Theron is compelling – trading blows and gunshots with the mostly male cast, swinging off juggernaut doors and burning rubber.

Her presence – and indeed the involvement of Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, Riley Keough, Abbey Lee, Courtney Eaton and Zoe Kravitz as the Five Wives, along with a female biker gang – bring a clever feminist twist to Miller’s action movie.

Two of the bikers, Melissa Jaffer as the Keeper of the Seeds and Megan Gale as Valkyrie are a particular delight.

Nicholas Hoult also makes a decent stab of his supporting role as the misguided fanatic, Nux. It is hard not to draw parallels between his dream of Valhalla, with the martyrdom of contemporary suicide bombers.

Keays-Byrne never quite convinces, though, as the grunting and screaming villain and he plays a poor second fiddle to the pyrotechnics on-screen.

He is not the only weak point.

Miller’s movie is short on decent dialogue and occasionally other members of the supporting cast come across a bit wooden.

Despite this, much of the fun is to be derived from Miller’s imagination running riot.

But this was true of the original films.

Watching ‘Mad Max: Fury Road’ is like gorging on the biggest trifle you have ever seen – albeit one that is so grotesque it mixes cockroaches and lizards among the jelly and fruit.

So much is going on, it is hard to take in in one screening.

The film is stunning visually – hats off to Miller’s Director of Photography John Seale – and the stunt work is hugely impressive, even if the relentless action occasionally tests your patience.

It is no surprise after six days on worldwide release, Miller’s $150
movie is roaring its way to a healthy profit and there are already
plans for a prequel with Hardy and Keays-Byrne.

It is quite simply the most bonkers blockbuster of the year and is well worth seeing.

But at the risk of sounding too parochial, when you eventually see Northern Irish director Stephen Fingleton’s taut, low budget dystopian thriller ‘The Survivalist’ and compare it, you cannot help feeling that for all of Miller’s imagination, sometimes less is more.

(‘Mad Max: Fury Road’ opened in UK and Irish cinemas on May 14, 2015).

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