Mad Max: Fury Road ★★★★

This thing is turned up to eleven. It’s a breathless tumbling-out of highly choreographed action. Scored to Verdi, its sprawling chases and melees play like grand symphonies of carnage.

Best of all, Mad Max: Fury Road is all style and storytelling: no godforsaken allegory.

Honestly, if I have to see one more action flick that really about the post-9/11 security state, I will lose it. There’s nothing wrong with imbuing pop entertainment with social commentary, but it’s become a license for plodding self-importance (I’m looking at you, Zak Snyder). George Miller – he who singularly helmed the whole Mad Max series – has taken every dime Warner Brothers gave him and created an focused yet grand narrative in a gloriously rendered world.

That world includes a flaming double-guitar war minstrel, a desert fire twister, a neo-Norse warrior code based around steering wheel totems and silver spray paint. And, of course, some pretty inhumane solutions to hemophilia.

I’m not sure Mad Max: Fury Road is the great feminist rejoinder some have claimed, but its best performances are largely women’s. Charlize Theron has a scary stoicism that anchors the manic narrative in a place of pain and determination, and she’s flanked by intense actresses of all ages, all kicking a fair amount of ass. Also, there’s Tom Hardy. Fury Road’s great virtue is a matter-of-fact sensibility to the violence swirling around this group. Cruelty against women sets off the events, and they respond with the same gleeful violence.

The standout performance, I think, is a man: Nicholas Hoult, as a hapless “war boy” determined to win his place in Valhalla, gives a tweaked-out, desperate performance that is the film in microcosm.

In essence, this picture is an expertly constructed gee whiz machine with a seriously lovely photography and movement. Each set-piece is a revelry. This is another entry into the genre of stripped-down action pictures that ground us in a world of extreme characters and let us luxuriate. There was Drive, then The Raid: Redemption, then Snowpiercer. Now, with Mad Max: Fury Road, the whole country seems excited for a new type of bold artistic summer entertainment.
All I can say to that is: what a lovely day!