Reviews

Mad Max: Fury Road - Ageless, and as mad as ever

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Cult classics aren’t always immune to vulnerabilities inflicted by time. Age occasionally withers them, and the evolution of cinematic preferences over successive generations more often than not renders these ‘time pieces’ a quirky, unappreciated relic of another era.

In many ways, Fury Road, the fourth outing in the Mad Max franchise, is an anachronistic gamble. The most recent Mad Max film, set in an apocalyptic after-world, came out in 1985, which is, relative to the richness of today’s cinematic experience, practically the Stone Age. And Fury Road seemed fatally jinxed: it’s been in the making for over 13 years, thanks to extraordinary delays in the production process.

But thank the Gods of Cinema that George Miller, who directed all three earlier Mad Max films, never gave up on his signature project! For what we have here is an enormously entertaining film that passes on the baton of the classic ‘road warrior’ saga to a new generation of cinemagoers.

Reduced to its bare essentials, Fury Road is just one long chase sequence. And, yet, over two hours of high-octane action, Miller keeps you glued to your seat and hooked on madness. In a curious way, Fury Road marks the triumph of the director over the screenplay writer: the kernel of the story germinated not from a script, but from a 3,500-panel storyboard. And given that Mad Max (played splendidly by Tom Hardy) is a man of very few words, there’s little by way of dialogue in the film. But, in fact, who needs a screenplay when the roar of adrenaline — among other male hormones — pretty much drowns out anything except the thunderous roar of firearms and flamethrowers, and the quirky wail of the double-headed electric guitar that the Doofus Warrior, one of villain Immortan Joe’s ‘warboys’, plucks away at for the entire duration of the chase?

Fury Road also momentarily resurrects a lost old world in film-making: Miller all but eschews CGI special effects, and opts instead for real-world, flesh-and-blood stunt sequences. The sight of the ‘polecats’ swinging around in the desert fight scenes is particularly thrilling. The cinematography by John Seale, who came out of retirement to shoot for Miller, captures the grittiness of the wasteland so vividly you can almost get a whiff of the protagonists’ body odour. Hardy is great as an authentic Aussie cop, Mad Max, who is haunted by his failure to protect his family and is fighting just to stay alive. His ally in the battle against the villainous Joe is Imperator Furiosa (played by Charlize Theron), who too is seeking a kind of redemption. There’s been much animated chatter about an embedded feminist propagandist message, channelled by Theron, in the film. But that is just so silly. Fury Road is the ultimate adrenaline movie: it starts off, engines revving, and never takes its foot off the accelerator for close to two hours. It is one wild ride.

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Printable version | Dec 14, 2019 7:27:52 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/cinema/cinema-reviews/mad-max-fury-road-ageless-and-as-mad-as-ever/article7213996.ece

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