Mad Max: Fury Road Tom Hardy and Charlize Theron Perfectly Matched

Max and Imperator Furiosa

Mad Max: Fury Road is the 2015 offering from George Miller; the creator of the original Mad Max film trilogy with Mel Gibson, starring Tom Hardy and Charlize Theron as the perfectly matched double act who prove that cinema as spectacle is addictive. The film also shows that Miller has lost none of the abilities to produce  post apocalyptic nuances, over the top scenario buildup and grandiose settings  that are guaranteed to make  viewers gasp. He also shows that epic films belong in the Australian desert where miles of road provide the best long-running “car” chases in cinematic history.

This latest Mad Max, which could be called a “re-boot,” has a  protagonist who is that bit more tortured and haunted than Gibson’s ex-cop turned vagabond traveler with an edge. Hardy’s Max is followed by visions of  what appear to be his version of the killed child from the first Mad Max film. Calling his name, asking why he did not save them, the girl is joined by several specters who challenge him and fill his head.

Certainly, this iteration of the tough survivor has much in common with the female protagonist in the film, Imperator Furiosa, played by Charlize Theron. Both characters are fighters, warriors of great capability and resourcefulness.  Each have their own set of talents and skill sets and the two have one more thing that they share; they seek redemption.

There are some things that have carried over from the original  verse that Miller brought to low budget life back in 1979. Max still has that car, although not for long, he has the long mane of hair, but also not for long, and he has the leg brace. Later he will pick up the double barreled shotgun and the mis-matched right boot.

Something else has popped up from that first film, that crazy motorbike gang leader, Toecutter, aka Hugh Keays-Byrne. The actor appears in “Fury Road” as Immortan Joe, the larger than life dictator who rules his people with an iron fist as he controls all the drinkable water. 

Another familiar element has been kept from the original Mad Max films. The action sequences are filmed in the same manner as those in the  1979 film. The stunt fights and the chase sequences are not “slowed down.” When filming fast and frantic action, director’s opt, as a rule, to slow down the crank rate of the camera, i.e. keeping the frames slowed down a fraction. This enables the sequences to look “natural” whereas all of the fight scenes and chase scenes look sped up in the Mad Max verse. (Resembling old black and white silent westerns, or later cheap westerns with sound.)

(It should be noted that either by design or accident, Miller seemingly pays tribute to another film.  In the two scenes where the water is released onto the populace from above; he appears to give a nod and a wink to the animated film Rango A 2011 “cartoon” western with animals as the main characters that “starred” Johnny Depp as a lizard who wrests control of the water away from the evil Ned Beatty.  In that film, Beatty’s villainous mayor controlled the water and, like Immortan Joe, released the stuff sparingly to the town’s denizens while maintaining his own personal supply. Just like the evil leader in Mad Max: Fury RoadRango was actually a western version of Chinatown and Mad Max, the whole franchise and not just Fury Road, is an apocalyptic western with horses being replaced by horsepower.)

Fighting and dying historic on Fury Road

George Millers re-imagining, or a reboot, of the verse has Max being captured early on. The film focusses upon Joe, Imperator Furiosa, the “breeders” and the “war boys.” At least at first. It then moves on to Furiosa, a capable one-armed warrior woman who drives the war rig and she is on route to get “guzzoline” and bullets. She detours from her ordered mission as she has taken Joe’s special breeders. The plan is to escape to her childhood home, the green place and take these beautiful young women with her.

Immortan Joe learns of the escape and rounds up a war party with two other warlords. War boy Slit (Josh Helman), is on his last legs, Max, who is O- universal donor is used as a human blood bag (and is called that by his captors) and he is hooked up to Slit. The “rev-head” driver/warrior decides to go on the quest to get the women back and Max is brought along.

The film has an interesting cast. Out of the  breeders two of the beautiful young ladies are played by performers who have a sterling show business pedigrees.  Zoë Kravitz (daughter of Liza Bonet and Lennie Kravitz) is Toast the Knowing and Riley Keough (daughter of Lisa Marie Presley) is Capable.  The rest of the Australian cast is filled with splendid character actors who are long time performers in Aussie Cinema and television. Actors like Richard Carter and John Howard for example.

Tom Hardy and Chalize Theron have brilliant chemistry together and each carry their own portion of the film well. There were complaints that the movie was really Theron’s and that  Hardy was almost portraying a secondary character.  While the focus is on Furiosa for a portion of the film, the story really is about their brief partnership and proves that not only is George Miller a proactive advocate of strong female character’s so is Hardy’s Mad Max Rockatansky.

It is worth mentioning that all the female characters in this post apocalyptic desert world are strong. The breeders, the all female family that Furiosa is desperate to return to and even the enormous “milk” producing captives seen at the beginning of the film prove to be strong.

Mad Max feels a bit like David Lean on steroids in terms of landscapes and epic scenes of battle. The stark and surreal beauty of the shooting locations is breathtaking, as are the computer effects, for instance the metal arm that Theron’s character sports through the film has been done so realistically that it is easy to forget it is not real.

The stunts are also stunning. The film’s humor is still there, (the drums the guitar/flame thrower) and combined with the over the top “chopped” vehicles, the madness and the white knuckle chases Miller provides entertainment on such a grand scale that even on the small screen Mad Max: Fury Road fulfills the eternal quest for exciting cinema ten-fold.

This is a 5 out of 5 star film for spectacle alone. In terms of home entertainment, this is what Blu-Ray was invented for.

Mad Max: Fury Road Second Trailer with Battle Royale Music Equals Awesome

Mad Max: Fury Road Second Trailer with Battle Royale Music Equals Awesome

The 1979 cult classic Mad Max is one of those films, that despite the filmmakers deciding to dub Mel Gibson’s voice in U.S. theatres, falls into that sacred category of “should never be remade,” but the release of the second Fury Road trailer complete with the 2000 Battle Royale film music equals some kind of awesome. It also makes the argument of not remaking the film a moot point. When a trailer looks and sounds this great, it is almost fait accompli that the film is going to rock socks at the cinema.

Inception (2010): Matrix for the New Millenium **may contain spoilers**

Cover of "Inception"
Cover of Inception

Written and directed by Christopher Nolan Inception is a masterpiece of a movie. It features an all-star cast and has so much chopping and changing of plots and action that you begin to feel like you’re watching a movie version of the game Twister.

Starring in no particular order:

Leonardo DiCaprio

Joseph Gordon-Levitt

Ellen Page

Ken Watanabe

Cillian Murphy

Tom Berenger

Marion Cotillard

Michael Caine

Pete PostlethwaiteDileep RaoTom Hardy, and  Lukas Haas. A pretty impressive group by anyone’s standards.

The budget for this film was 160 million dollars and the box office return was in excess of 825 million dollars making Inception a real blockbuster film with a capital B.

The basic (as basic as you can get in this film) is that Cobb (DiCaprio) is a dream thief. He is in exile from America as he has been accused of murdering his wife and he is unable to see his children in Los Angeles as a result. The irony is that this dream thief dreams constantly of returning home and seeing his kids.

Cobb has been offered a ‘clean slate’ by ruthless businessman Saito (Watanabe), which will allow Cobb to return home and wipe the murder charge from his record. What Saito wants in return is for Cobb to not steal a dream, but to plant an idea which is known as “Inception.”

The target, a business conglomerate, owned by tycoon Maurice Fischer  (Postlethwaite) who is dying and leaving it all to his son Robert (Murphy). Saito wants Cobb to plant the idea through Robert’s dream state that his father really wants him to sell the conglomerate off and make his own fortune.

Cobb’s ‘business’ partner Arthur (Gordon-Levitt) says it is not possible. Cobb maintains that it is. He and his deceased wife Mal (Cotillard) had practised this. Unfortunately it is very dangerous and we learn that this was how Mal died. Although Arthur decides to help Cobb he is not convinced that they can do it safely.

Cobb must now come up with a new powerful dream ‘architect’ because this was Mal’s job before she died. Ariadne (Page) is recruited via Miles (Caine) Cobbs father-in-law. He then gathers the rest of his team; Eames (Hardy) an identity forger, Yusuf (Rao) who controls the sedatives required by the team, Arthur and Saito as the mission observer.

In order for the idea to be planted, the team must go into several dream states, each deeper than the previous one, in order to evade the target’s defences.

And evade they must for Robert has had his brain ‘trained’ by a security company. This training allows his dreaming state to be patrolled by security guards who can spot intruders and terminate them with extreme prejudice. This is not the only hurdle the team have to overcome. It seems that Cobb’s dead wife, Mal, is alive and well in his sub-concious and she will try to sabotage their mission.

The last ‘danger’ the group face is being in the dream world too long. If you go too deep and cannot be brought back, via a drop or your dream self getting killed, you will remain in the dream state forever. You can also become confused as to what is ‘real’ and what is a dream, to help each team member keep track, they each have a personal totem that behaves differently in the dream state. Cobb’s is a top that spins perpetually.

So the  team must go into a dream and then go into another dream and into another dream. Each dream state requires a team member to stay in that level and watch over the remaining members as they go deeper.

Confused yet?

This film looks amazing, you can see where the 160 million went. Nolan masterfully helms the many twists and turns of the verse and at no time does he leave one string dangling. My daughter and I went to see this at the cinema. We both were on the edges of our respective seats through the entire film.

What The Matrix did for cinema combat, Inception does for cinema environment. Two of the film’s set pieces, ‘the exploding room’ and ‘the anti-gravity room’ were real sets. The mountain fortress was real as well, just in miniature so it could be blown up.  CG was used at a minimum to help sell the shots. Nolan created these set pieces by taking a step back in the world of special effects. 

But where CGI was used, it worked beautifully. When Cobb is interviewing Ariadne, the scene begins with the two of them at a Parisian Bistro. They are seated with drinks in front of them. Cobb is explaining how dream architecture works. He then looks at Ariadne and says, “Do you remember how we got here?” When Ariadne starts to respond, items from the ‘busy’ set start exploding. *On a side note here, the scene has so many props in it, that if it were not computer generated it would have set Nolan back a large part of that 160 million.*

After the set explodes, they then start walking the streets. Ariadne starts practicing her architecture and literally bends the streets and buildings, while Cobb explains the rules of the ‘dream verse.’

CGI is used for the world that Mal and Cobb created that resulted in Mal killing herself in the mistaken belief that the created world was the real world that she desperately wanted to go back to. The city in the parallel world is almost Dali-esque in it’s depiction. When Cobb and Ariadne go there to deal with Mal, it is decaying and falling into the ocean. It is like the place is eroding from lack of use and it looks disturbing.

But two of the most impressive scenes that did not rely on CGI were the exploding room at the beginning of the film and in the hotel scene later on.  Using an ‘anti-gravity’ room, which in essence was a ‘room’ that was suspended in mid-air and rotated. The actors were attached to wires in some cases, but for the most part they really were working in ‘free-fall.’

And free-fall is how Nolan sells the film so well. Remember the “dream within a dream within a dream” bit? Well, this tier system that requires a team member to stay behind in each level, starts with the first team member, who actually has everyone else with him but in a dream state, drives a van they are all in off a bridge. Cue the first free-fall. And it has a effect on the next team member who is in the hotel portion of the dream.

The film only had  about 500 visual effects. A very small amount for a film with so many special effects and such a huge budget.

The film moves almost seamlessly between the real world and the dream world. But it does this so often that is almost like a cinematic shell game. By the end of the film you have to decide what was real and what was a dream. What ever you decide is based on your interpretation of the series of events.

When the film ended (prepare yourself for the controversy) two things happened almost simultaneously, we both looked at each other and said, “Blu-ray.” We also immediately started discussing the ending and how we saw it. We weren’t the only ones either.

For the first time in years, I saw a room full of people discussing excitedly the film they had just seen. The room was full of laughing, talking, and arguing people. I really can’t remember the last time I’ve seen an audience act that way after a film.

As we left the cinema, my daughter turned to me and said, “Wow, that was ‘The Matrix of the new millenium.”

I think she’s right. Just like The Matrix, Inception changed the rules and bent the rules it couldn’t change. It went so far outside the box, that the box ceased to exist.

If Inception is not on the list of  films to see before you die, it should be.

Right at the top.

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