Mad Max: Fury Road

Mad Max: Fury Road ★★★★★

What makes a 5 star film?

There are lots of different criteria floating around for what makes one. By their own admission, some people are a lot freer with dishing out such a grading whilst others insist a film practically has to become their all time favourite to receive full marks.

It is, of course, completely dependent on the individual. I've often wondered if I am quite strict or quite liberal with the amount of times I've handed out full marks. Including Mad Max: Fury Road, I've rated 84 films as 5 star. There are films on that list that I look at and think if they are worthy of being there. And out of all the ones that I've seen for the first time after joining Letterboxd, I don't think there's a single one where I didn't think that I was going to rank it 4.5 stars before thinking, "Nah. It deserves the lot."

It was exactly the same with Mad Max: Fury Road. I played over in my mind, as I tucked into my lunch afterwards, all the reasons why I shouldn't give it full marks. Because it's not perfect at all. The dialogue, not that there's much of it, is quite clunky at times. Tom Hardy once again wrestles unconvincingly with an accent. It's also quite vague as to the exact motivation for Charlize Theron smuggling away the Wives and why exactly they are so pristine and perfect while most of the rest of the population looks like crap.

Then I realised that I didn't give a shit. There were sections during this film where I was literally sat, legs crossed, on the edge of my seat. I was utterly transfixed from start to end. It's a film that starts with Hardy eating a live lizard and ends with a male and female character parting company with not even a hint of tear for a potential lost romance because this is a film that allows a male and female character to have a relationship WITHOUT ROMANTIC ENTANGLEMENTS.

For the things that Mad Max: Fury Road does wrong, it also does things that we should all be hoping are the start of a major shift in Hollywood action cinema. The development of strong and admirable female characters, with genuine character arcs and individual characteristics, that are not formed off the back of how they look, is one such thing. All the more remarkable when you consider that George Miller is working with the likes of Rosie Huntington-Whiteley here, and she is on the aesthetically pleasing side, isn't she?

Miller makes this Theron's film. It's Max's name on the title but it's almost false advertising. This is Imperator Furiosa: Fury Road. Hardy spends much of the opening of this film strapped to the front of a vehicle and trying to get his mask off while Theron ploughs her way through an assortment of mutant and psychotic bastards. She gets the key emotional scenes while Hardy is in the background.

Miller's not just made what I already think is a landmark in action cinema, but he's made it into a film after which Hollywood has absolutely no excuse. If it can't develop regular, high quality and successful action movies and franchises with female stars, then it is to blame. Not audience apathy. It's ludicrous that no-one has had the bright idea to approach Emily Blunt after her exceptional Edge Of Tomorrow performance with a prequel or sequel vehicle for Rita Vrataski. No one is going to convince me that 'disappointing' box office figures are the reason for that. I'm certain that a spin-off, with better marketing, would be a bigger success. Paula Patton and Lea Seydoux kicking all manner of arse spectacularly and convincingly, without being patronised, in Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol prove that female action stars are popping up all over the place.

Like I say, Hollywood has no excuse now. This is their chance. Theron has shown her abilities in disappointing action vehicles before this, but now Miller has thrown it down and said to her male counterparts out there, "Yeah. Fucking match that!" There's so much potential here. Watching relative newcomers like Huntington-Whiteley and Zoe Kravitz throwing themselves wholesale and convincingly into their roles shows that there is even more potential to come.

But Fury Road has so much more. It's already receiving a lot of protection, just days after most reviews started appearing, from people waiting in the wings to shake down anyone blasting this with the much derided "overrated" tag and I don't think it's just because this is a great action film, although it is. I think it's because Mad Max: Fury Road is just a truly great film and not just a truly great action film.

Commando is a truly great action film. So is Police Story. But they're not truly great films. Mad Max: Fury Road has an extraordinary, relentless pace to it that barely lets up for more than about 3 or 4 minutes at a time - and even that only happens maybe twice. It is a constant battering of your senses with ever-evolving lengthy action scenes and shorter brutal sections, all shot through with amazing invention and a sense of humour and consistently interesting and different characters.

It's got a fucking bloke who has the job of playing the guitar on the front of one of the rigs, regardless of what's going on round him! What's he there for?! IT DOESN'T MATTER. It's a fantastic and hilarious visual, watching this dude spanking out some tunes while vehicles and people are mangled all around him. He's backed up by a bunch of drummers as well.

It's got people pole-vaulting from vehicle to vehicle. It's got an astonishing scene in some kind of radiation-soaked sandstorm that is a thing of beauty comparable with anything that I have seen for quite some time. It has a style and aesthetic and a universe entirely of its own. It even has Nathan Jones, one of the most useless pieces of shit ever witnessed in professional wrestling, looking an absolute hulking and frightening freak in the middle of it all.

There are the characters and performances as well. When he's not required to talk, Hardy steps into Mel Gibson's shoes about as seamlessly as anyone could have asked him to. The splendid Australian character actor Hugh Keays-Byrne makes for a chilling, eccentric and completely original main villain - clearly Miller never forgot what an impression he left in the first installment of the series. Nicholas Hoult's Nux is an unpredictable presence right at the heart of the film as well, shot through with heroism and a character turn that sets him apart on that front from many other similar cases in many other action films.

Then, at the end of it all, they live up to their word and they part ways. The end. People are right to be protective of Mad Max: Fury Road. I'm just glad, for only my second trip to the cinema in the last 5 years, that I was there early to be able to stick up for it too.

🇵🇱 Steve G liked these reviews