Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga Review

Years before she meets Max Rockatansky, Furiosa (Anya Taylor-Joy) desperately searches for her way home after being kidnapped by the foot soldiers of warlord Dementus (Chris Hemsworth).

by John Nugent |
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Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga

In 1979, George Miller made his feature debut with Mad Max, a modest, near-future indie about a cop taking on a biker gang. More than four decades later, amazingly, he’s still playing in that insane sandpit. Furiosa represents a lot of things: an epic slice of myth-making, a Homeric odyssey that broadens the ever-expanding dystopian world in which it is set; a prequel to 2015’s Fury Road, a historically exceptional action movie which may never be bettered; and perhaps the most ambitious film Miller has ever made. (Yes, even including Babe: Pig In The City.)

Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga

It is a lot. Where Fury Road was set over a mere 36 hours, this story spans 15 years. Where Fury Road was singular, unstoppable action ecstasy, this is more episodic tension, divided into five chapters, each with cryptic titles like ‘The Pole Of Inaccessibility’. It is markedly different from that last film in so many ways, and yet inextricably tied to it, deepening our understanding of what Charlize Theron’s Furiosa meant when she spoke of “looking for redemption” and said that her “mother died on the third day”. Places only whispered of or glimpsed before — Gas Town, the Bullet Farm, the Green Place — are finally rendered on screen, vast and grandiose. The Wasteland feels bigger and busier — shout out to new characters Scrotus, The Octoboss and Piss Boy — and also somehow lonelier and more oppressive, like if David Lean did dieselpunk.

Quite often your eyes will not fully comprehend what you are watching, or how it could be possible.

Yet it always feels human-focused. Remarkably, Anya Taylor-Joy does not even appear for the first hour or so — it’s credit to the casting of Alyla Browne, equally brilliant as younger Furiosa, that the transition is almost seamless. Both actors find the right balance of steeliness and fractured humanity that Theron instilled. Taylor-Joy, in particular, is phenomenal, her big, intense eyes standing out starkly against her engine-oil-smeared forehead, emoting subtly in a dialogue-light role. Chris Hemsworth’s Dementus, meanwhile, is a talker: a charismatic, frequently shirtless and increasingly chaotic despot ruling his armada of bikers — “a thousand mad bastards”, as he affectionately dubs them — from a petrol-powered Roman chariot. Through him, Furiosa wrestles with hope versus hate, with what justice and revenge look like in an inhuman world.

But don’t misunderstand. Any concerns that Miller, in his 80th year, decided to put on his grandfather slippers and settle down for a nice, quiet character study are wildly misplaced. Nobody does emotionally trenchant, character-driven, nitro-powered action like him. There is, once again, an astonishing standard of stunts and visual effects sustained throughout these 148 minutes, with at least six audacious set-pieces — including a three-day chase across a desert, and a staggering airborne assault on a War Rig — that must be seen to be believed. Quite often your eyes will not fully comprehend what you are watching, or how it could be possible. After 45 years in the business, George Miller is still showing everyone how it’s done. What a privilege to witness him.

The chassis may look familiar but there is a very different engine driving Furiosa from that of Fury Road: it’s a rich, sprawling epic that only strengthens and deepens the Max-mythology. It shall ride eternal!
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