Mad Max is back with a bang. The latest George Miller film follows the tradition of his earlier manic action films following the life and times of an outcast group of dysfunctional ‘survivors’ from a post-nuclear war, global apocalypse.
Let’s be honest, no one goes to a Mad Max film for the careful character development and the nuanced screenplay. In fact, Mad Max (Tom Hardy), is almost irrelevant in this film; for most of the time his identity is hidden behind a small inverted garden hand-fork, forcibly strapped to his face, as a marker of his ownership by others. Even his blood is literally being stolen by his enemies.
For a more dynamic and less broken human interest we turn to the left arm amputee ‘Furiosa’ (Charlize Theron). She is still active in her world and is seeking signs of ecological survival and ‘redemption’, in this blasted landscape of utter alienation (the Namibian desert). Max merely hopes for escape and freedom.
Theron carries what little plot there is, and she does this well. But Miller thinks visually and this film is an auditory and visual feast. Director/writer Miller pays a little ‘knowing’ homage to the westerns of John Ford at the beginning of the film by choosing a section of the Monument Valley skyline as a place to begin. Ford, like Miller, thought in visual terms. Plot and screenplay were usually subsidiary to sketched story-boards. In this case the story-boards preceded the script by many months
The plot is silly, circular and repetitive. What makes this film so visceral and so spectacular is the sheer effort and energy put into the splendid cinematography and sound-track.
Usually a review emphasises acting and directorial skill. Here we must acknowledge the extraordinary creativity of the artwork, the costumes (Jenny Beavan), the weapon experts (Simon Bethune), the stunt drivers (‘Western on Wheels’) and the vehicle-chase co-ordinators (Lauren Wild)
The film is unapologetically loud and brash (a theme taken up by the audience in the cinema I visited). The scenery and the sets are breath-taking, but above all, the trucks and combat vehicles are superb. Bosch would have loved them.