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.