The Aisle Seat - Movie Reviews by Mike McGranaghan
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THE AISLE SEAT - by Mike McGranaghan


Mad Max: Fury Road

The year was 1983. I was fifteen years old. My parents were having some kind of party. Left to my own devices, I crashed in front of the family room television to watch whatever was on HBO that night. It turned out they were airing George Miller's The Road Warrior, a film I'd heard was supposed to be pretty good. It was much more than that. Ninety-five minutes later, I was nearly breathless with exhilaration, and when the party was over, I raved to my parents about this action movie I'd watched which was like no other action movie I'd ever seen. I knew that, in terms of my own personal viewing, the game had been changed. Feelings like that don't come along often, yet here George Miller is providing it again with Mad Max: Fury Road, the fourth – and best – installment in his long-running series.

In the post-apocalyptic future, water is controlled by Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne), the leader of an army known as the War Boys. He has essentially enslaved an entire population of people, who need to stay in line if they want to occasionally receive a small amount of the precious liquid. Former cop Max Rockatansky (Tom Hardy) gets captured by the War Boys and used as a blood donor for one of them, the sickly Nux (Nicholas Hoult). Soon afterward, Immortan Joe discovers that his five wives, all of whom are being kept for breeding purposes, are missing. The culprit is Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron), a tough-as-nails woman who drives a massive, heavily-armored truck and plans to lead the young brides to freedom. Nux and other War Boys are sent to stop her, and Max eventually separates from him to help Imperator prevent the women from being recaptured. Thus begins a nearly non-stop chase through the barren landscape.

The last Mad Max movie, Beyond Thunderdome, was released in 1985. A big part of what makes Fury Road so special is that George Miller takes full advantage of all the technological innovations that have occurred in cinema since that time. And we're not just talking about CGI here; much of what you see in the film was done practically. We're talking about innovations in stuntwork, cinematography, and visual design. Those things have changed radically since 1985, and Miller uses them to indulge every crazy idea he can think of. The result is a Mad Max movie that is, to quote Spinal Tap, cranked up to eleven.

Everything works together so that the film as a whole achieves a powerful impact. In many modern movies, the action is just staged, often in a fairly generic way that looks no different from picture to picture. Fury Road, on the other hand, has been carefully designed. The visual scheme and camera movements amp up the intensity of the stunts, so that a perfect storm of action is created. For instance, in perhaps the most spectacular sequence, we see an expanse of desert, filled with rusty modified combat vehicles, all racing along at top speed. One of them has a little platform in the front, where a guy plays an electric guitar that also works as a flamethrower. As Imperator drives her rig, War Boys chase her. Some of the pursuing vehicles have long, counter-weighted poles attached, so that men can launch through the air to land on her truck, pull the brides out the top, and swing back over. The camera looms above them as they pole vault back and forth in a dizzying manner. It's this kind of detail, applied layer upon layer, that creates such an intense visceral thrill. Miller is incredibly specific with his action sequences, turning them into something unique.

He's just as radical with his storytelling. The screenplay, co-written by Brendan McCarthy and Nico Lathouris, makes Max Rockatansky the secondary hero, despite having his name in the title. The real star here is Imperator Furiosa, who's every bit the badass equal of Max. Superbly portrayed by Charlize Theron, the character is strong yet compassionate, and more than capable of taking care of herself. Her mission to save the young wives, coupled with a surprising twist involving the safe place she's planning to lead them, provides the most intriguing aspect of Fury Road: the suggestion that men are responsible for this apocalypse and it just might be time to let the women take over for a while.

Mad Max: Fury Road fires on all cylinders. It looks incredible, subverts storytelling expectations, has uniformly strong acting, and contains more thrills and excitement than you'd normally get in five action pictures combined. It may be the fourth film in a franchise, but there's nothing else quite like it. There isn't a single second that doesn't completely enthrall.

Like Jurassic Park, The Dark Knight, and, yes, The Road Warrior before it, Mad Max: Fury Road sets a new gold standard for action cinema.

( out of four)

Blu-Ray Features:

Mad Max: Fury Road
Own Mad Max: Fury Road on 3D Blu-ray Combo Pack, Blu-ray Combo Pack, DVD or on Digital HD TODAY!

Mad Max: Fury Road hits DVD and Blu-Ray, and 3D Blu-Ray on Sept. 1. The Blu-Ray comes with about ninety minutes of high-quality bonus material.

“Maximum Fury: Filming Fury Road” runs thirty minutes and documents the production of the film, including the challenges faced by making a movie in a remote desert location. The complications of staging the movie's signature chase scenes are explored here, too. “Fury on Four Wheels,” running twenty-two minutes, looks at the making of the vehicles. We see how they were designed and manufactured specifically for Fury Road, plus how recognizable automobile models were used as the basis for many of them. Of particular interest is how the war rig Furiosa drives has lots of little details you may not have noticed onscreen, including the fact that its gas pedal is made from one of those foot-measuring gizmos you see in shoe stores.

“The Road Warriors: Max and Furiosa” (11 minutes) focuses on the characters played by Tom Hardy and Charlize Theron. Both actors are uncommonly articulate about their roles, and Theron acknowledges that they often stayed in character with one another on the set, so as to achieve the proper amount of tension. Hardy also tells an amusing story about meeting Mel Gibson prior to accepting the role. “The Tools of the Wasteland” (14 minutes) explores all the items used in the movie, from weapons to guitars, while “The Five Wives” gets up close and personal with the actresses who portray Immortan Joe's spouses. Interestingly, they reveal that, despite how hot it may have looked, many of their scenes were actually filmed in the cold.

Rounding out the disc are “Crash & Smash,” which is four minutes of raw footage to show just how many of the stunts were done practically, and three minutes of deleted scenes, which are just short trims of already-existing moments.

The supplementary features on Mad Max: Fury Road are quite thorough and entertaining to watch. They befit an action movie that truly earns the label “must-see.”

Mad Max: Fury Road is rated R for intense sequences of violence throughout, and for disturbing images. The running time is 2 hours.

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