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Top Movies of 2015 #2: Mad Max: Fury Road

 

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As we get to our final two picks for award worthy movies of 2015, I must mention that it is no surprise that the list so far has not only been nominated, but has also won some awards at the recent Golden Globes. Now with the Academy Awards right around the corner, I felt it would be perfect timing to talk about my final two picks, that both have multiple nomination for the upcoming award ceremony.

My number 2 is Mad Max: Fury Road. George Millers’ return to the wasteland that shot Mel Gibson to international star status and set the bar for many movies to follow. But with 20 years between Fury Road and Thunderdome and the downfall of Mad Max himself, Mel Gibson, how could this movie possibly work? The funny part is that it almost didn’t. The movie was in development hell for the better part of the last 20 years and when filming began, reports of trouble on the set began to paint the picture of disaster for the post-apocalyptic opus. Somehow, some way, George Miller pulled off the impossible and made the best Mad Max in the series along with setting the bar for a second time in his career.

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First off, the movie keeps with tradition as Max is thrown into yet another situation that he never intended. This time around, Max is played by Tom Hardy who captures the spirit of the character that was defined in Road Warrior. A man a few words that simply came for the gas becomes entangled in this mutiny that transpires during the film. Like the previous films, the movie is really about the people who inhabit the wasteland rather than the title character himself, only this film kicks that idea up a notch, but we will get into that in a bit. Over 80% of the effects seen in the film are real practical effects, stunts, make-up and sets. CGI was raerly used and when it was used it was to enhance the natural Namibian landscape.

We’ve spoke a bit about the movie taking place in this post-apocalyptic wasteland, and with that said most would instantly think of this grim, almost lifeless world. Well you’d be absolutely wrong. The film is shot in a way that brings the beauty of the desert wasteland to life with more color than you will see in most films. Miller accomplishes the hard task of taking this barren wasteland and bringing it to life so that you almost forget where you are. This was done by the fact that George Miller had had the trust and fortitude to use his best crew as cinematography, and editing. George Miller saying Fury Road would be as colorful as possible in order to differentiate the film from other post apocalyptic movies which typically have bleak, dull colors. The art direction would also be as beautiful as possible. George Miller told cinematographer John Seale to keep the main actor centered in the screen so that the viewer’s eye did not have to search the screen due to the film’s fast editing style. According to Seale, Miller said “Keep the crosshairs on her nose!” It was a brilliant trick unnoticed by many but really adds to the style and grace that Fury Road is.

When the film editor, Margaret Sixel, who is director George Miller‘s wife, was asked why her husband thought she should do it as she had never edited an action film before, Miller replied, “Because if a guy did it, it would look like every other action movie.”

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The blue skies, the millions of stars that shine in the night sky, it all pops off the screen without ever feeling dull and uninspired. During one of the more tense moments of the film, we witness the vicious effects of a sandstorm, complete with tornadoes and lightning. During this scene, the viewer is witness to the complete devastation it causes and when it’s over you feel a sigh of relief and relish on how beautiful it was. That scene alone informs us that no one is truly safe anywhere and that if the raiders fail to kill you, everything else will try its best and probably finish the job.

But what about Max? Well for starters, Max is really the supporting character in this film. He serves his purpose and Hardy does a fantastic job bringing the essence of the character back to the big screen all the while making it his own. Max still just wants to keep moving and not get involved, he keeps to himself and looks at everyone as an enemy, but as it always goes, he finds himself in the middle of someone else’s dispute and cannot help but try to do the right thing. As I said though, he plays support this time around so that our adventure can focus on the story of Imperator Furiosa.

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Furiosa (Charlize Theron) set’s in motion the events of the film by betraying her master. She rebels and takes with him his many beautiful wives in search of something better. Her actions cause panic that transpire throughout the film in what is essentially all out vehicular warfare. Furiosa mirror much of whom Max is in the series with the small difference of wanting to better the world by her actions. She is equally cautious of all people, making the first interaction with Max another tense moment of the film. We know both are trying to do good and survive, but they both see each other as a threat to that same well-being.

Theron does the impossible and steals the show in almost every scene she has. We understand her motive as she reveals more of her history and how she came into the “forced” employment of the films villain. We admire her courage at the start only to find ourselves rooting for her success with every passing second. We find ourselves feeling her pain whenever everything begins to go south and when all hope is gone, we feel like screaming at the screen. She allows the audience to make that connection that was lost in the previous films.

The story is solid from start to finish. We get a quick refresh on who Max is and how he came to be the wanderer of the wasteland. We get enough information at the beginning to know this place is not a place you would ever want to find yourself and we know why our heroes hit the road. At no point does Miller throw in any subplots for filler that make you wonder about. There are no points in the film where you ask yourself what happened to so-and-so or how something happened. We get all the details we need to understand the motive and the reasoning behind each action.

Overall, George Miller has crafted his best Mad Max to date, granted he had 20 years to do it, the movie could have gone so many different ways with the amount of time it spent in development hell. The movie overcame all the odds and as I stated earlier, it really set the bar for a new generation of filmmakers. Action movies are always fun to watch, but it’s rare to see an action movie that has a solid plot, unique design, and top-notch acting. I hope that this movie wins in the categories it’s been nominated for so that we may see a better standard in future film-making.

Oscar Feature

Nominations:

  • Best Motion Picture of the Year
  • Best Achievement in Directing 
  • Best Achievement in Cinematography
  • Best Achievement in Editing 
  • Best Achievement in Production Design
  • Best Achievement in Costume Design 
  • Best Achievement in Makeup and Hairstyling
  • Best Achievement in Sound Mixing 
  • Best Achievement in Sound Editing
  • Best Achievement in Visual Effect 
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