Review: Mad Max Fury Road

I know I’m late to the party, but last night I finally watched Mad Max: Fury Road. What a ride!

Directed by George Miller, the latest instalment in the Mad Max series is a non-stop, high octane action film. An epic chase across the burnt orange desert Wasteland begins just a few minutes in, and the film doesn’t hit the brakes until it comes screeching to a halt right at the end (in a good way). Crazy-looking cars and even crazier-looking people are the order of the day in this fast-paced, dieselpunk action film.

Tom Hardy, who you probably remember as Bane from The Dark Knight Rises, follows in the footsteps of Mel Gibson as he hops into the driver’s seat and takes on the title role of Max Rockatansky. Although Hardy gives a decent performance, he gets left in the dust (sometimes literally) by Charlize Theron as Imperator Furiosa. Complete with a mechatronic arm, grease smeared across her brow, and an unquenchable thirst for redemption, Furiosa is definitely the number one badass in this film, with all of the humanity that Max’s character sorely lacks.

Together, Max and Furiosa attempt to liberate the five brides of tyrannical warlord, Immortan Joe, as well as the apocalypse survivors who struggle for survival under his oppressive reign.

Mad Max Fury Road Poster
Although she’s side-lined in most of the official movie posters, Theron’s Furiosa is undoubtedly the hero of the film.

The other unsung hero of Mad Max Fury Road is its editor, Margaret Sixel. Apparently, Sixel, who is also George Miller’s wife, was given over 480 hours of footage which she spent nearly three years cutting down to a feature film of 120 minutes. At least 2,700 individual shots have been used in the final cut, which equals an average of 22.5 cuts per minute – and sometimes it was even faster! Despite cutting so quickly – and the madcap, chaotic nature of some of the chase sequences – the film never leaves you feeling disorientated. Why? As pointed out by Vashi Nedomansky on his blog, the film never misses a beat because all the action takes place in the centre of the frame. Consistent use of “Eye Tracing” and “Crosshair Framing” techniques during shooting enabled Sixel to cut as fast as she wanted without confusing the audience:

“This was an edict passed down directly from director George Miller. Over the walkie talkies during every scene he could be heard saying “Put the cross hairs on her nose! Put the cross hairs on the gun!” This was to protect the footage for editorial and to ensure that the entire high speed film would be easily digestible with both eyes and brain. Every new shot that slammed onto the screen must occupy the same space as the previous shot.”

Here is a great illustration of what Nedomansky is describing:

Even though Sixel was aided through the careful composition of shots, editing Mad Max Fury Road was still a daunting task for the South African-born editor. According to this article, written by Margaret Gardiner, one of the most challenging aspects of cutting the film was the fact that it had so little dialogue. Sixel reflects:

“[Dialogue scenes are] how scenes are structured, so [without them] the options are endless. It was a relief to find a scene with dialogue. You cut them in a day. It’s ridiculously easy.”

George Miller and Margaret Sixel at the 68th Cannes Film Festival
George Miller and Margaret Sixel at the 68th Cannes Film Festival

Apart from the two Mzansi-born ladies who helped make this film totally awesome, there were several other stand-out performances. Hugh Keays-Byrne, his wild eyes and his marginally wilder wig, bring the badly diseased (but vicious) Immortan Joe to life. Nicholas Hoult easily shifts gears from his sleepy portrayal of zombie R in Warm Bodies, to hyped-up, death-obsessed war boy, Nux. Even Rosie Huntington-Whiteley rocks as The Splendid Angharad, Immortan Joe’s favourite bride.

Mad Max Fury Road Banner

Both Tom Hardy and Charlize Theron are set to return in Mad Max: The Wasteland, which has been announced but is not yet scheduled for release. Whenever it hits the cinemas, you can be sure that this time I’ll be booking my tickets for opening night!

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