Cannes Review – Mad Max: Fury Road

Max (Tom Hardy) returns in this steampunkian road movie, where oil and water are now the most precious commodities on earth. Imparator Furiosa (Charlize Theron) decides to liberate Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne)’s favourite wives from his oppressive regime and take them to a promised land of plenty. Joe, however, has different ideas and rallies the War Boys to take Furiosa down before they can truly escape. Of course, Joe doesn’t know that Furiosa has Max on her team.

There really is nothing better than a Cannes crowd cheering and applauding their approval for a truly great film. This morning in the Grand Theatre Lumiere, the atmosphere was electric, and the assembled thousands were not afraid to show their love for George Miller’s big, loud and oddly beautiful actioner.

Although Tom Hardy plays the title character, and does incredibly well in both the action scenes and with the small amount of dialogue he has, Mad Max: Fury Road is a film that belongs to both Charlize Theron, and to the ensemble. Theron breathes life and strength into Furiosa, making her the baddest, strongest and most formidable bitch we have seen on screen in a long time. Never one to slow down, and with a seeming blindness to when she is beaten, Theron makes Furiosa the heart and soul of the film.

Elsewhere, Nicholas Hoult takes on the role of a War Boy turned good – Nux – and makes him both intimidating and vulnerable. Rosie Huntington-Whitely, Zoe Kravitz Abbey Lee and Courtney Eaton make up Joe’s fugitive wives and, although they are introduced as weak and girlie, they soon take a leaf from Furiosa’s book, and step up their game.

George Miller, Brendan McCarthy and Nick Lathouris’ screenplay is not overly detail focused, but is cleverly written enough that during the action scenes we learn more about the hunters and the hunted. Enough information is revealed, without ever feeling overly expository, for the audience to root for these underdogs in their run across the desert to freedom, and redemption. Redemption is a strong theme that runs throughout the film; some seek it, some deliver it, but this is a film that is focused on characters making good, and make good they do. The screenplay doesn’t hold up to too much scrutiny however, and there are times when the action seems to drown proceedings, leaving the audience to wonder how much more there could possibly be.

With Mad Max: Fury Road, George Miller has directed a 2 hour film that is a road movie, a salvation flick and one long chase sequence, punctuated with the occasional moment for some dialogue and for the audience to catch their breath. The action is little short of exhilarating, with the chase sequences devolving into smaller battles before opening up to show the bigger picture once more. The entire film feels high octane, over the top and on occasion, breathless, but it is precisely this that makes Mad Max: Fury Road such an spine-tingling thrill ride that had the Cannes audience screaming their approval throughout the film.

John Seale’s cinematography plays with colour and light, managing to make the desert setting both beautiful and desolate, rich and barren. There are times when the CG gets a little too much, and some sequences are ever so slightly speeded up, giving the film a faintly cartoonish look.

In all, Mad Max: Fury Road is an over the top, loud, bright and exhilarating chase movie. The motivations and screenplay fall apart with a little scrutiny, but the action is edge of the seat stuff, and Charlize Theron rocks the hell out of Furiosa.

Rating: 4/5

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