George Miller’s Mad Max ★★★★★

‘Hope is a mistake. If you don’t fix what’s broke, you’ll go insane.’

George Miller delivers a non-stop, spectacular action film transforming the wastelands of a commonly depicted post-apocalyptic world into an ironically colourful, intensely imaginative, V8 ‘valhalla’.

The low-budget franchise that made Miller’s name has well and truly been refueled and throttled forwards to brilliant results. Although this is a 120 minute car chase, literally becoming a non-stop action thrill ride, the film does address a wider audience than meathead, action junkies.

Portraying insanity on screen can be hit or miss – it is extremely easy to overkill the portrayal of insanity by being ridiculous. Some might say that a giant, high-speed car that functions as a moving bugle with both drummers and a mutant wielding an electric guitar-come-flamethrower occupying that vehicle is overdoing the ‘insane’. However, after the initial laughs in the cinema following the first sightings of this seemingly pointless guitarist, this feature of Immortan Joe’s army fuels and effectively enhances the insanity inherent in this film. It is also drives home Miller’s attempt to return us to our primal state in the wake of the apocalypse, bringing back the traditional methods of warfare (with slight vehicular modifications).

From the opening sequence, the speed of each shot intensifies the chaos and enhances the rush imparted from Max (Tom Hardy) to the audience as he attempts to escape the dictator, Immortan Joe, and his army of ‘Warrior Boys’. Max’s voice in this opening sequence is lost, and the audience is given access to the ghostly thoughts and voices that haunt Max. Coupled with the edited increase in speed during this foot chase, the audience is tactfully set with enough adrenaline to see out the 120 minutes; any longer would act as a definite disservice to Miller’s masterpiece.

Once Furiosa (Charlize Theron) hits the road in her war rig with the stolen ‘wives’, she is under hot pursuit by Immortan Joe, his sickly warrior boys and Max, acting as a blood donor to one of the warrior boys Nux (Nicholas Hoult). The speed of each shot maintains, and there is evidently less editing to artificially increase the speed due to the real cars used when filming. The continuous drumming of the V8 bugle becomes a medium to both incite insanity and war, and gradually it becomes synonymous with a heartbeat, racing to the pace of the film.

Hidden in all the explosions, sandstorms and fist-fights are serious messages, emphasising a common theme seen across TV and film recently –  the strength of women. Charlize Theron’s ‘Furiosa’ is a woman empowered by her desires of redemption and revenge; the ‘wives’ are fearless in the face of their kidnapper; and even the elderly women are seen blowing holes in warrior boys with sawn-off shotguns. Although the film occasionally confuses the moral seesaw of gender discussions, it is a film undeniably intent on giving women an equal sense of power to men.

Despite the post-apocalyptic film not being an original concept – a wasteland, a return to the primitive, and a constant fight for control of resources – Miller’s return to Mad Max beautifies this apocalypse, with colourful flares, vibrant explosions and vehicles so imaginative that they make us long for a “Top Gear – Mad Max Special” to be released.

Through all the carnage, the audience is left both with both a pounding headache and a burning desire to see a sequel of some form. The ability to keep a 120 minute car chase as interesting, emotive and crazy as Miller has achieved in this film is one that deserves applause. Mad Max is a film where the acting can be overlooked, leaving the visuals and general aesthetics of the film in the driving seat – and they deliver spectacularly.

 

 

Clint Eastwood’s American Sniper ★★★

‘I just want to get the bad guys, but if i can’t see them I can’t shoot them.’

BRADLEY COOPER delivers a spectacular performance in this suspenseful contemporary account of war; however, it is difficult to assimilate this film in a black and white sort of way – good or bad. Ironically, that is how Eastwood presents war – good guys and bad guys with nothing in the middle. A simplistic, blindly patriotic interpretation of an extremely complicated subject matter combined with a gross alteration of the truth, this film undoes its achievements in terms of cinematic spectacle through the annoying yet inevitable presence of political and moral concerns.

Much akin to the famous ‘shutting your butt down’ interview with Quentin Tarantino, to what extent is a director held accountable for the possible political and moral implications their film has in the real world? With movies such as The Interview causing worldwide uproar and panic, Quentin Tarantino and all other directors must surely understand the empowered position they hold in delivering messages through their art form. Clint Eastwood’s American Sniper has invited a whole host of questions regarding the position and the responsibilities of a director in the wider society.

Ultimately, American Sniper delivers a message that the patriotic American is good, and the hateful, evil Muslim is bad. It is a film that instills hatred, propagates the US army, and hails a former navy SEAL as a hero due to his hatred being so strong that he supposedly killed more than 255 people during his career. In his book, Chris Kyle, the protagonist of the film, described killing as ‘fun’, and something that he really enjoyed. He also did not hold back from expressing his severe hatred of Iraqis, calling them ‘savages’. Of course, the film wouldn’t be nearly as enjoyable if Clint Eastwood’s Chris Kyle was like the real man; in fact, it is almost futile to mention that this film is based on a true story as the film is so far removed from the truth. For this reason, although some impact might be lost, thinking the film as entirely a work of fiction might allow a cinema goer to enjoy the film more, without any moral and political crises.

American Sniper opens with a tense moral dilemma, which most of us have already seen in the heart pounding trailer. Shoot the kid or not. I am pretty sure that every time that trailer has been played, an overwhelming silence fills the room, as each person listens intently to the heartbeat, the heavy breathing and the few words spoken over comms. That feeling of suspense is present throughout American Sniper, heightened by a tremendous performance by Bradley Cooper. Although it is hard to ignore the political sentiments and moral ambiguities in the film, Eastwood really does bring the horrors of war home. It is an exploration of Chris Kyle’s extremely troubled mind and how to deal with it, veterans being a topic of expertise for Eastwood as seen in Flags of our Fathers. Eastwood documents Kyle’s life from wanting to be a cowboy, to witnessing 9/11 on television, to joining the SEALS and becoming ‘The Legend’.

This film oozes patriotism; it might as well just be a 2 hour show of bugles sounding against an American flag which is swaying in the wind in slow motion. Nominated for 6 oscars, including best picture, this film is far more controversial, provocative and egotistic than Fox News…in fact, Fox News probably have this film listed as one of their favourites.

Taken as a stand alone movie, without politics, American Sniper is a decent, edge of the seat war film (that still blows smoke up the arse of the US). Take the film within its political context and it is a misguided form of propaganda to further create a dichotomy between east and west, and which, intentionally or otherwise, will instill more hate and racism in our own countries. In fact, this hate and racism has already erupted in response to this film.

An exciting, suspenseful war movie whilst watching that leaves a bitter taste in the mouth upon reflection.