Movie review: Charlize Theron is an action hero for a new era in Mad Max: Fury Road | Arts
Arts
INDY Week's arts blog

Archives | RSS | Follow on

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Movie review: Charlize Theron is an action hero for a new era in Mad Max: Fury Road

Posted by Google on Thu, May 14, 2015 at 2:00 PM

click to enlarge Charlize Theron as Imperator Furiosa, a new action hero for a new Mad Max movie. - PHOTO BY JASIN BOLAND
  • photo by Jasin Boland
  • Charlize Theron as Imperator Furiosa, a new action hero for a new Mad Max movie.
Mad Max: Fury Road
★★★★
Opening Friday

In Greek mythology, the Furies were goddesses of justice and vengeance, particularly for crimes against the natural order. Mad Max: Fury Road takes cues from this feminist allegory while delivering—in spades—the sheer havoc the title also suggests.

Director George Miller paints an immersive post-apocalyptic epoch where societal structure has been upended, and its most susceptible members—mainly women and children—are natural resources. Chalk-white “War Boys” compose the indoctrinated army of King Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne), the grotesque tyrant of the Citadel, one of the few remaining human strongholds in a barren desert wasteland.

Joe rations gas and water to the needy masses. Meanwhile, he harbors a harem called the Five Wives—slaves forced to bear his offspring, which are nourished by milk forcibly farmed from an assembly line of women. These are human beings distilled to the most basic functions of servitude, and it’s a cruel reality that Furiosa (Charlize Theron, terrific), Joe’s (literal) right-hand woman, eventually cannot tolerate.

In a refueling convoy to Gastown, Furiosa suddenly veers her tractor-trailer War Rig off course, onto Fury Road. Her secret cargo are the breeders, who she intends to ferry to safety in the mystical “green place," Furiosa’s ancestral motherland. An irate Joe and his horde of henchmen give chase, with a captive Max (Tom Hardy, taking the iconic title role from Mel Gibson) strapped as a hood ornament to one of the pursuing vehicles. Once he escapes, Max, Furiosa and the freedom-fighting Five Wives must overcome their distrust for the sake of mutual survival.

Fury Road is part superhero flick, part Western. Joe’s marauding cavalry charges into battle led not by a bugle call, but by a flame-throwing guitar brandished by a masked musician who hangs like a marionette aboard a mobile stage. Max is a monosyllabic man-with-no-name until the last act, his taciturn manner hiding the scars of abuse and survivor’s guilt from the family he couldn’t protect. Furiosa falls squarely in the lineage of action heroines Ellen Ripley and Sarah Conner. Indeed, Miller’s most subversive feat is making the female lead in a Mad Max movie the most compelling champion, while Max is a subdued cipher.

The movie never finds the narrative high-gear that marks the difference between simply spectacular and truly transcendent action films. “All this for a family squabble,” Joe’s lieutenant quips, with unintended accuracy. This is mostly a rock opera, divided by acts rather than scenes—a symphony in which relentless action and visual intensity build to a kinetic crescendo. Accompanied by the power chords of Junkie XL’s incessant score, the mayhem is an intoxicating, phantasmagoric fever dream of computer effects and untethered camerawork, mixed with real pyrotechnics and old-fashioned stunts that span the spectrum from Buster Keaton to Bullitt.

It’s also the 70-year-old Miller’s balls-out response after trying to return Mad Max to the screen since 1985, and after the frustration of his infamously scrapped Justice League project (Keays-Byrne was cast as Martian Manhunter, and Megan Gale, who was to play Wonder Woman, makes an appearance as Furiosa's kinswoman). It can’t be a coincidence that Furiosa shares elements of Wonder Woman’s Amazonian origin story, or that the iron facemask Hardy wears in the first half of the film evokes his Bane mask in The Dark Knight Rises.

Full of firefights, exploding jalopies, flying dirt bikes, rock slides and digital sandstorms, Fury Road is the antidote to the summer movie same-old. Bolstered by a sufficient sum of provocation and even poignancy, it’s a gritty, wild ride that gives equitable bang for your buck.

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Pin It

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

INDY Week publishes all kinds of comments, but we don't publish everything.

  • Comments that are not contributing to the conversation will be removed.
  • Comments that include ad hominem attacks will also be removed.
  • Please do not copy and paste the full text of a press release.

Permitted HTML:
  • To create paragraphs in your comment, type <p> at the start of a paragraph and </p> at the end of each paragraph.
  • To create bold text, type <b>bolded text</b> (please note the closing tag, </b>).
  • To create italicized text, type <i>italicized text</i> (please note the closing tag, </i>).
  • Proper web addresses will automatically become links.

Latest in Arts



Twitter Activity

Comments

I agree that the vocal work is incredible! And, I thought that the well-made and beautifully-designed set really supported the …

by Judy Dove on Theater Review: Dogfight's Regional Premiere at NRACT Is Rich in Emotion But Meager in Staging (Arts)

In the last 5 years, 11 of the 15 musicals NRACT produced were premieres in the region. I commend them …

by James Ilsley on Theater Review: Dogfight's Regional Premiere at NRACT Is Rich in Emotion But Meager in Staging (Arts)

Most Recent Comments

I agree that the vocal work is incredible! And, I thought that the well-made and beautifully-designed set really supported the …

by Judy Dove on Theater Review: Dogfight's Regional Premiere at NRACT Is Rich in Emotion But Meager in Staging (Arts)

In the last 5 years, 11 of the 15 musicals NRACT produced were premieres in the region. I commend them …

by James Ilsley on Theater Review: Dogfight's Regional Premiere at NRACT Is Rich in Emotion But Meager in Staging (Arts)

Instead of luxury apartments(AHEM Carborro) and new restaurants, build more parking?!(Just one parking garage would help a lot, cover it …

by ammi on The Bookshop Brought Many Rare and First Editions—and Two Famous Cats—to Franklin Street for Thirty-Two Years (Arts)

WELCOME TO THE GREAT BROTHERHOOD.
Do you want to be a member of Illuminati as a brotherhood that will make …

by peter bello on Movie Review: A Dog's Purpose Rolls Over and Plays Dead Under Its Own Heart-Tugging Weight (Arts)

The last thing Chapel Hill needs is another damn restaurant.

by Chrysser on The Bookshop Brought Many Rare and First Editions—and Two Famous Cats—to Franklin Street for Thirty-Two Years (Arts)

© 2017 Indy Week • 320 E. Chapel Hill St., Suite 200, Durham, NC 27701 • phone 919-286-1972 • fax 919-286-4274
RSS Feeds | Powered by Foundation