The Mad Max films at their heart have always consisted of impressive set pieces surrounding a bleak world where gasoline and material possessions were the basic desires. And at the centre of these films was a man who lost his humanity but always in some way gained it back and in this way he became something bigger than himself through the people that he saved. The latest entry in the Mad Max film series that spans over three decades continues this tradition. At the same time it paints the most visionary and exhilarating picture of director George Miller’s post-apocalyptic world since The Road Warrior in 1981.
Instead of resources being mere desires stated out loud and fought over between two warring gangs, it is used as a way of control and flited out through people. In this way, people have been dehumanised. For example, Max Rockatansky (Tom Hardy) in the first half of the picture is strapped to the front of a car. His blood is being transferred to Nux (Nicholas Hoult) who is a young member of the gang that has captured Max. Whenever speaking of Rockatasnky, Nux refers to him as the blood bag.
Gasoline is the currency of the plot as Miller has taken his famed set pieces from the prior installments and constructed the film to be like one big chase. As a result of this simple premise, the film has urgency, a frantic pace and a touch of feeling like an authentic midnight movie experience. However, there are moments in between the action sequences where Miller allows the audience to breath and the characters to interact with one another.
Charlize Theron as Imperator Furiosa is the true standout of the picture, portraying steely resolve and subtle empathy. There is a scene when a character refers to Furiosa’s eyes, and this is Theron’s best asset as an actress. They show us the character’s resilience, determination and heart. Tom Hardy is equally as good as the titular character. For much of the film, he conveys a great deal through facial expressions, gesture and eyes that all add up to the most haunted and beaten down version of Max Rockatansky.
The most surprising aspect of the film is in its music, which is provided by Tom Holkenborg, who is better known as Junkie XL. At times, it represents the beating and frantic heart of the film, which is particularly evident during the chase sequences. However, at other times it feels big, sweeping and almost operatic in its use. A great example of the latter is when Furiosa is on her knees, mourning the loss of her society. The music at that moment represents her cries of anguish and pain.
This scene additionally represents just how much Miller admires and understands the cinematic form. It is a medium where everything is accentuated on a massive canvas to which the audience can be absorbed by for a couple of hours. A different and younger director would have just focused on the flashy gangs and action. However, a veteran like Miller understands the power of the image and what it yields.