Rock and Roll legend has it that back in 1967 at the Monterey Music Festival Pete Townsend, lead singer of The Who begged Jimi Hendrix to take the stage after his band, as opposed to before like originally scheduled due to a fear that the legendary guitar man would get the crowd so excited that the British band could only fail to live up to Hendrix. Sure to form Hendrix gave one of the performances of his career and left the stage with his guitar on fire and the crowd whipped into a frenzy, thankfully for Townsend he agreed to go on last and saved them their blushes.
One can’t help but imagine that every film due for release this summer must now feel like Pete Townsend did that day, except somehow they have to follow that incredible performance. George Miller’s Mad Max Fury Road doesn’t just set fire to its guitar, it strings it up to an oil tanker, shoots pyro out of it and sends it speeding through the Australian outback whilst the audience sit there, jaws to the floor with child-like amazement before walking off stage and challenging every other film to attempt to follow that.
It’s been 30 long years since Mad Max last made it to the big screen and many fans will have been wondering whether Miller still had it in him to pull out all the stops. Fury Road however, is the director’s Magnus Opus, a film that takes all the greatest elements from his former films and ties them together in a beautiful, chaotic tapestry.
Like the rest of the series Fury Road is short on plot and big on action. Max (Tom Hardy, Child 44) has been kidnapped by a cult like tribe who are trying to steal his blood to fuel their soldiers when one of the leader’s top commanders, Furiosa (Charlize Theron, A Million Ways To Die In The West) goes rogue, taking with her all the women from the tribe and heading out to the promised land to secure their future.
It isn’t long before a full metal army are in pursuit of them, with one of the soldiers, Nux (Nicholas Hoult, X-Men: Days Of Future Past) having Max strapped to the front of his car.
For the most part, the rest of the movie is a high speed car chase complete with some of, if not the best action sequences of this century. When one thinks of Miller directing these scenes the image of J.K Simmons Fletcher from Whiplash comes to mind; the master orchestrating this beautiful carnage, a wonderful symphony of violence and mayhem, making every other blockbuster released in the last 10 years look like it’s just not quite at his tempo.
Underpinning all this mayhem is some subtlely nuanced characters – Tom Hardy is a fine replacement for Mel Gibson as Max, channelling his inner Timothy Spall as he grunts his way through the first half of the movie before opening his shell perfectly in the second half; Max however feels like a support character in his movie here as Theron’s Furiosa takes central stage. Theron’s performance is one of the movie’s finest assets; the one armed female warrior highlighting a wide range of emotions throughout; with her character embodying the radical politics that lie at heart of this movie. Miller’s film is a boldly feminist feature, and in a world where Michael Bay degrades women and makes billions of it this is a welcome sight in a summer blockbuster. Nicholas Hoult is also excellent as the misguided but loyal Nux who shows a child like innocence as the film carries on.
Mad Max Fury Road turns pure carnage and mayhem into poetry in motion. This is a juggernaut of a movie and one that is unlikely to be topped this summer, if not the rest of the year. What a lovely day indeed.