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The ‘Mad Max’ Update Emits A Primal Scream

In a world gone mad, the mad are the sane ones.


In “Mad Max: Fury Road,” it makes perfect sense that an army wages war with an electric guitarist suspended high above a battle rig. As the army screams, he bangs out their heartbeat in electric metal riffs.

The movie is a heavy-metal world, a long expression of emotion and testosterone, a frenetic spin and jive of life and death among the ruins of civilization.

The tension hits in the very opening scene. Mad Max (Tom Hardy) is hunted like an animal by a tribe of chalk-skinned warriors and haunted by the voices in his head. The two merge into an endless cry of torment. In a world wasted and controlled by power, his only instinct is for survival.

His need to survive intersects with the plans of a battle-scarred woman named, perfectly, Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron). She leads a flock of lovely ladies in a desperate quest across the barren landscape. They flee an impossible life for the hope of a future that glimmers in the distance like a desert mirage. Mad Max, along with his warrior captor to whom he is chained, crash into the ladies like the bass riff hitting the high notes with no time to miss a beat.

They are pursued. Of course they are pursued. They are things, possessions, belongings, and their strong owner wants them back.

A Need for Speed

Like a good guitar shredder, the film never stops moving. They flee, they talk, they fight, they love, and they die at full speed, kicking up rooster tails of sand behind them. Men come at them, spinning in maniacal glee, dangling from arching poles, hoisting explosive spears, covered in spikes. The vehicles come at them, muscle cars souped up on tank tracks, motorcycles bristling with warriors, trucks built up like castles, semis armored like mighty ships. The weapons come at them, guns and swords, darts and spears, explosives and chains.

If they stop, they die. The road behind them becomes littered with the carcasses of cars and men who could not keep the pace.

Even when they pause, they don’t stop. The sense of pursuit, of speed, of the need to move hangs in the air like the dust that surrounds them. The look of the film, the style of it, becomes second nature. You feel yourself choking on the dust, fighting the heat, needing to move, to run.

A Modern Epic

It’s that primal. If all these words sound epic, that’s because it is. The beautiful, stylized cinematography, the gritty acting, and the relentless action work seamlessly to suck the audience into a world where there is no ambiguity, no nuance. There is only the desert with evil behind and faint hope in the distance. In a world gone mad, the mad are the sane ones.

Director George Miller, also the creator, writer, director of 1979’s “Mad Max,” returns to the essence of the world he created.

There are things in this movie, like the original, that do not bear inspection. Why do they never eat? In this dirty wasteland, how do the Vogue-model girls keep so white the wispy tatters of linen that try valiantly to cover their perfect bodies and so clean their smooth faces? And what is that chrome spray paint the warriors put on their teeth? None of it matters. In the hands of Miller, you realize it could be no other way.

Life reduced to speed and battle, they journey on. This is the stuff of Homer in the key of Metallica. So the guitarist plays on.

Rated R, the film has intense, non-stop violence that can be very gory. It also has brief, shocking, spooky images of ghost-like characters. There is no sexuality (they ain’t got time for that) or bad language.