• There is no other auteur in cinema history to rewrite his story at the age 70 like George Miller has with Mad Max: Fury Road. For years—really decades, Miller’s best work stood as The Road Warrior (or Mad Max 2) from 1981. There was not much of note from Miller since (a few archiveable films, none of them landing in their respective years top 10). It certainly felt like he was done as a cinematic artist of consequence. Mad Max : Fury Road destroys that notion—or rather, sets it on fire.
  • There are varying stats on the average shot length of Fury Road but the exact details are not important. Whether it is under 3 seconds per shot, or 22 cuts-per-minute, this is one of the most aggressively edited films in cinema history. The only film in the 2010s that feels worthy of comparison in terms of the art of editing is Dunkirk (Whiplash and Inception probably feeling a bit slighted right now). Margaret Sixel won the Oscar for best editing (she had nearly 500 hours of footage to whittle down) for Fury Road. What a colossal achievement for her. She is George Miller’s wife. In 1991, James Cameron apparently tested out a version of Terminator 2: Judgment Day where, instead of cutting scenes out, he removed every other frame (this certainly sounds similar to how Godard experimented with Breathless and revolutionized jump cut editing). Evidently, the results were disastrous and Cameron went back to the drawing room. Here, Miller and Sixel seem to have figured it out. They don’t speed up the photography (which, I think history has shown, largely does not work), they pick splices to omit. The results are a breathtaking and leaves just about every other film by comparison feel like it is playing at half-speed. Moulin Rouge! from the 2000s comes as one exception. to mind (there must be something in the water in Australia).
  • It is a peculiar Tom Hardy performance (is there any other kind?) and his achievement is not on the level of Charlize Theron’s- but his vocal talents (shown off during the prologue voice-over) are undeniable.

The second greatest composition of the film (still ranking among the greatest of 2015) is the first true opening shot after the brief apocalyptic montage. This is the shot of Hardy’s Max, back to the camera, with both he and the car posing and looking out at the wasteland in the valley from the ridge…sublime.

  • Shot both in parts of Africa (Namibia mostly I believe) and Australia—color brought out by the great cinematographer John Seale (coaxed out of retirement by George Miller). Of course, it’s very different from the desert he so wonderfully captures in The English Patient (2nd and 3rd maybe only to David Lean in terms of beautiful desert films) and it is at least equal to that Oscar-winning film in this area.

The score by Junkie XL both mirrors and fuels Miller’s wild vision- octane, metal, guitar and drums.

Theron’s performance is physical with her nearly six-foot tall frame swinging her hips like John Wayne in the desert. Her eyes (often accentuated by the black war paint) tell the story and Miller, deftly, refuses to bog her character (and the film) down with speeches.

  • The world building and background mythology is the quality of Tolkien and Lucas (the green place, Valhalla, the place of many mothers).

The film is largely one prolonged chase sequence. And the case for practical effects (all told anywhere from 75% of it to 90% of it was done without CGI) is made with emphasis. Other action films pale in comparison. The collective stunt work needs its own category of praise here.

this is a rich text that rewards study, this stunning composition is not something I had time to catch up to and relish in theater in 2015

not quite Visconti or Kurosawa– but strong blocking here

  • The three-way partially hand-cuffed fight between Hardy’s Max, Theron’s Furiosa, and Nicholas Hoult’s Nux at the 35-minute mark is a standout sequence in a work filled with standout sequences stacked on top of each other back to back. It is also proof that is not all about the vehicles.
  • Miller and Seale opt for a rich, sapphire blue day for night—beautifully realized.
  • I have previously mentioned the many mothers- but there is a rich feminist reading of the film. “We are not things” on the wall defiantly. Furiosa, instantly, becomes one of the action genre’s greatest characters (I may add she joins Sigourney Weaver’s Ripley from Aliens on that very short list of the greatest). In a key scene requiring expert marksmanship with a rifle, Hardy’s Max hands the gun to Theron knowing she is the more skilled warrior.
  • The screenplay cannot be more than the length of a novella- but what is written is masterful. “Retaliate first.”

I may have started off the page wring about the all-time achievement in editing, and it is that, but like Potemkin there is no shortage of on-a-wall-in-a-museum compositions. At the 74 minute mark Miller has the exceptional blue day for night shot with the crows and trees.

The greatest frame in the film and one worthy of a spot in the annals of cinema art—is Furiosa’s scream to the heavens in the dunes at the 81-minute mark. The wind pushing the sand almost takes the place of her cry.

  • Fury Road has a set-piece momentum that few can compare with. The finale of The Road Warrior has a section of the film (not the entire thing) that compares. Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) has it. Terminator 2 has it. Speed (not quite on the level of these other films certainly has part of it). Though, if pressed, I am not sure any film can touch the adrenaline rush of Miller’s masterpiece.
  • I have seen the film four times now and Nicholas Hoult’s performance and the arc of his character impressed me this time when it hadn’t previously. Hardy’s vocal work aside (I can’t think of another actor I’d rather deliver “My name is Max”), he’s so shifty and in his own head as an actor that I go back and forth on the level of achievement this is for Hardy.
  • If there is a blemish, and am I not someone that goes into every film looking for one- it is the 3D-ploy at the 106-minute mark with the simulated involvement of the audience.
  • It is certainly in tune with the auteur’s work in this area (especially in the Mad Max franchise- clearly like Lorenzo’s Oil, which is a good film, isn’t edited like this).  The film is not all action- but about 90 of the 120 minutes feel a little like Moulin Rouge meets the tunnel scene in The Dark Knight. It borrows (and improves) from Spielberg’s Duel as well. Hardy, once again, uses his dazzling elocution and voice timbre.  Theron does the best work of her career. I do not care how good she was before, or what she does after this. This is the film she will be remembered for.

The kinetic action experience is getting the brunt of much of the praise and rightly so. It is so ballsy and primal yet skillfully executed.

  • Comparing and giving the film an archiveable evaluation is really tough.  The film can be compared to many others yet, like we’ve said before about great films, is a work of its own and is definitely Miller’s brainchild. I’ve borrowed from a few RT and MC critics and I’ve forgot to cite them (apologies) but one that I like is “A mind-boggling exercise in pure action Mad Max: Fury Road is overwhelming, achieving the sort of visual poetry typically ascribed to Ben-Hur’s chariot race or one of Sam Peckinpah’s blood ballets.” One thing I have not read but would like to add is that it feels and looks a little like what a Scorsese film (in his prime) would look like if he decided to fully embrace the action genre.  It is directed that way.
  • I am going to do a few more comparisons and talk about Miller here and then call it a day. There is too much to talk about in this genius piece of art here in just one review (I have mentioned the strong feminist layer and the movie is funny as well). Clearly a film of this magnitude is also a game-changer for how we view George Miller as I mention in the opening. Honestly, I do not know what to make of him. He has two top 10-worthy films (this and The Road Warrior) to date and his last one prior to Fury Road was 34 years prior. I am racking my brain to find someone or something else like this. I have praised all of the individual parts of the film but clearly this is the work of an auteur and Miller deserves the credit for bringing it all together.
  • The two-hours fly by, and Miller knows both when to end it, and how to end it. He ends it with an unspoken look and acknowledgement by the two leads.
  • A masterpiece