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If you’re reading this review while trying to decide whether you should take the time and money to go see Mad Max: Fury Road in the theater, let me save you some time:

Go see Mad Max: Fury Road.

Go see Mad Max: Fury Road.

Go see Mad Max: Fury Road.

Go see Mad Max: Fury Road.

Go see Mad Max: Fury Road.

Fury Road is a movie of hyperbole. It’s so big, so loud, so incredibly bombastic that it’s nearly impossible to talk about without similarly hyperbolic statements. This is the best action movie I’ve ever seen. It’s the best movie I’ve seen this year. It’s something everyone should go see.  Remember last month when I talked about how Furious Seven was a near perfect summer blockbuster? Well, Mad Max: Fury Road is a perfect summer blockbuster. Oh, and in the middle of all this high-octane, ram an explosive-tipped spear into your face action, it’s also a film with substance. It has something important to say about people, about redemption, and surprisingly enough, about feminism.

The film finds Max once again in the middle of a conflict he didn’t start. In a post-apocalyptic world, an evil warlord, Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne, who, fun fact, also played the villain Toecutter in the original Mad Max), controls one of the last remaining water supplies: a giant pump pulling water, what he calls Aqua Cola, from deep in the earth. He uses this to ruthlessly control the population. Providing them with just enough water to ensure their reliance. Joe is worshiped as a god by his army of Warboys; drugged out, mutated young men brainwashed into his service. Interested in maintaining his line and legacy, he keeps a stock of five healthy wives, his “prize breeders”, locked within the Citadel, producing heirs. Yearning for freedom and children free from Joe’s influences, the wives decide to escape with the help of Joe’s most trusted general Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron). The film is basically one continuous car chase as Joe rallies his entire war band in a desperate, rage-filled attempt to recapture his escaped wives; his “property”.

More mad than we’ve ever seen him, Max is thrust into this conflict when he is captured by Joe’s Warboys and forced to be a living blood bag, supplying a continuous stream of healthy blood to the Warboy Nux (Nicholas Hoult). My big question going into the film was how Tom Hardy would do as Max, filling in for Mel Gibson in the role that made him famous. I’ve talked about Tom Hardy’s incredible acting skills in previous reviews and Fury Road just confirms his talent. Hardy’s Max is fantastic. Like past incarnations, the character doesn’t say much, but Hardy’s skills and charisma shine in such a way that dialogue isn’t needed. We’ve never really known much about Max and we don’t learn much more about him here. It’s intentional. Max is a mysterious, mythological figure, appearing when he is needed and vanishing almost as quickly. The fact that he has no skin in the fight beyond his own survival, and yet chooses to take up the mantle anyway only serves to enhance the myth. Hardy manages to convey all this. And he makes Max fun too. Some of the funniest moments in the film are Max’s reactions to the events unfolding around him.

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The most surprising thing about Fury Road, however, is that Max really isn’t the main character. Charlize Theron’s Imperator Furiosa gets that honor, and she’s absolutely wonderful. Furiosa ignites the conflict in the movie, choosing to help the 5 wives escape their captivity in an attempt at redemption for her past. She’s layered, complex, and most importantly an equal match for Max. There’s no romance between the two, the movie can’t be bothered with that. There is, however, mutual admiration and respect. At one point when Furiosa uses Max’s shoulder as a support for her sniper rifle, we understand everything we need to about their relationship. Theron’s performance here is absolutely phenomenal. Like Max, she doesn’t talk as much as what is conveyed through just her face. When you look at Furiosa, you can see all the rage, sadness and regret in just her eyes. We never really learn Furiosa’s backstory. We don’t know the specific reasons why she’s seeking redemption and we never see the events that led to the loss of her arm, but we don’t need to. The film and Theron’s performance give us everything that we need.

It would be impossible to discuss this movie without talking about the strong feminist themes going on. In a world where control and power is everything and humanity as a whole seems to be subjugated to one man’s will, women seem to have it the worst. And like our world, their subjugation is related to the qualities that make them feminine. We see Immortan’s wives forced to be breeders and treated as objects. We also see a group of women who are literally being farmed for their milk. And then there is Furiosa, a wild, powerful woman who has somehow found herself as one of Joe’s most trusted warriors. We don’t know how she got to this position. But it is very clear that to Joe, molding Furiosa into his weapon is just another form of control.

The message here is very clear. It was men that destroyed the world. Men who fought wars over oil, and later over water. Men who seized power and struck down those in their way, bending them to their will. Joe wants to continue on this destructive trend. He wants a healthy male heir to keep the status quo going. But it is through women that the world can continue and rebuild some semblance of humanity. Immortan Joe attempts to curb and control these women, to force them into his image of the world, but they resist; they fight back. And they’re all a bunch of badasses.

At 70 years old, writer/director George Miller is showing that his age hasn’t slowed him down at all. He directs the absolute shit out of this movie. The original Mad Max garnered its popularity through the visceral, physical nature in which Miller shot everything. When he needed cars to crash into each other, he filmed cars actually crashing into each other. When he needed a character to go flying off a car at 80 miles per hour, he actually catapulted a man off a car at 80 miles per hour. Miller chose to stay true to this style in Fury Road; most of the movie is practical effects using actual vehicles and stuntmen. In our modern day world of CG effects, it’s rare that a movie makes me stop and question how certain effects were created, but here I caught myself shaking my head in sheer awe multiple times throughout the film.

Miller’s pacing is relentless and kinetic. He allows everything to build to a cacophonous roar with crazy things flying by you at the screen almost constantly. There’s never any confusion, though. The action is filmed skillfully enough so that you’re able to clearly understand and process everything you’re seeing. This isn’t shaky cam and fast cuts that turn everything into a jumbled mess like most most modern action films. The movie is fast-paced and brutal, but always clear.

I could go on talking about Mad Max: Fury Road for hours. I haven’t even touched on some of the other characters, nor the incredible score that propels you through each moment. There’s so much more to say about this film and perhaps I will return to it in a later article. For now, what you need to know is that there’s never been a film quite like Fury Road. When I first heard that George Miller was going to be continuing the franchise 30 years later, all I wanted was for it to be good. Mad Max: Fury Road is better than good; it’s the best movie in the franchise. Tom Hardy is the best iteration of Max. This is something everyone needs to experience.

Guys. Seriously. Go see Mad Max: Fury Road. Go see it on the big screen.

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