Steven Spielberg once said he thought the best directed action sequences of all time were by James Cameron for “T2”. I agree—up until now that is—because a new standard has just been set.
George Miller’s “Mad Max: Fury Road” should come with a warning label. This is a movie that grabs you by the balls, squeezes you, and takes you on a thrill ride of unrelenting intensity candy-coated in wicked euphoric glee. And this is not the shoot everything in extreme close-up, shake the camera, and cut every 0.007 seconds incoherent bullshit that passes for action directing these days. This is instead an old-school work of art filled with master shots, wide-angle steady cams, and breathtakingly executed tracking shots peppered with push-ins and pull-outs zooms amid an orchestra of grinding metal and dust.
Charlize Theron is absolutely fantastic as Imperator Furiosa, the heart and soul of this movie. Tom Hardy is the perfect Max, exuding every bit as much charisma and cool as Mel Gibson did playing the reclusive, emotionally scarred anti-hero back in the early 80s “Mad Max” trilogy. The middle part of that trilogy, “The Road Warrior” (1982) is the best of those films, a cult classic, and one of the best ten action films of all time. “Fury Road” surpasses “The Road Warrior” in every aspect by tenfold. Really! It is that good. What is astonishing is that amid the non-stop action, Miller and company manage to tell a tight, good story with strong character development and real emotional resonance.
Amid the kinetic movement, there is so much going on here visually, from the twisted “Beetlejuice” inspired villain, to the “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom” looking henchmen, to the “Dune” styled production design. There is even a hefty dose of “The Fast and Furious” here. But make no mistake, like the original trilogy, “Mad Max: Fury Road” burns with a searing originality of post-punk retro modernism.
Bottom line: “Mad Max: Fury Road” is a masterpiece of action cinema.