‘Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga’ Movie Review (Cannes)

In the horrible post-apocalyptic future depicted in the Mad Max movies, where people have names like The Octoboss and Toast the Knowing, it was downright revolutionary of Mad Max’s mother to name him Max. In Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga, two of the evil sidekicks are named Rictus Erectus (Nathan Jones) and, what else, Scrotus (Josh Helman). Furiosa itself is not the most everyday name. But neither is Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga an everyday movie. It’s an absolutely spectacular journey of a quest for love and justice, with a series of career-best performances from its cast. Better still it’s wrapped in an astounding array of stunts so extreme, and so extremely awesome, that action/second unit director Guy Norris should be put into a museum for his own protection. With all these points combined, director George Miller has done the impossible and made a match for Mad Max: Fury Road.

[There are spoilers ahead for Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga.]

The world has fallen apart, but young Furiosa (Alyla Browneis living in blessed splendor in a hidden valley with running water, plentiful fresh food, and solar power. When she sees some invaders butchering a horse, she sneaks down to their bikes and starts cutting fuel lines, but they catch her. She whistles for help, and her remarkable mother (Charlee Fraser) immediately gives chase and snipes most, but not all, of the marauders who’ve stolen her daughter and now risk the safety of their hideaway.

Chris Hemsworth and Tom Burke in career bests

But the brave Furiosa refuses to speak, not even to Dementus (a career-best Chris Hemsworth in the best part he’s ever had, one which lets him show off his quick intelligence instead of his physicality), the sociopathic leader of this terrifying gang. (One wonders what his mother originally named him.) The fact that his dead kids’ teddy bear is permanently attached to his person only makes his violence worse.

All sorts of unspeakable horrors follow, but as Dementus’ gang tries to find out where Furiosa came from, instead they discover the Citadel controlled by Immortan Joe (Lachy Hulme), a creepy place where so-called war boys commit suicide on command and metal chains winch motorbikes into the sky leaving their riders to fall to their deaths. The only other places in the wasteland are The Bullet Farm, in an old quarry, and Gastown, an oil refinery which needs the food the Citadel grows. Supplies are run between all three places by convoy, mainly a giant’ war rig’ driven by Praetorian Jack (a career-best Tom Burke in the best part he’s ever had, which knows how to weaponize his thrilling combination of stillness, longing, and capacity for violence). 

Anya Taylor-Joy plus high octane filmmaking

Despite Dementus telling Immortan Joe that Furiosa is his daughter, Furiosa immediately defects to his side, and while she’s initially placed into Immortan Joe’s harem, she soon figures out a way to disguise herself among the crew of mechanics. Time passes and when Furiosa (now Anya Taylor-Joy, who lets her eyes do most of her talking) stows herself away on Jack’s truck, the convoy comes under such serious attack that the stuntmen get to use motorbikes, parachutes, harpoons and digger arms in addition to the cars, shotguns, fire sticks, dynamite, road flares, and other even more stupendous stuff. A car is flipped upside down to land on the front of the war rig, and this, which would be a centerpiece moment in almost any other movie, is just another thing that happens in passing! 

More than just action, Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga has emotional depth

Whenin the midst of battle, Furiosa accidentally makes herself known to Jack, they regard each other in a way that clearly takes inspiration from Buster Keaton in The General. Their eyes reveal what their facial muscles don’t, and the ways in which they draw together are unexpectedly romantic. But it’s also not the point. The only real question for this prequel/sequel is whether Furiosa will be able to revenge herself for her lost mother and her lost childhood on Dementus. 

The snowballing power struggles between various warlords make the plot somewhat episodic. Mr. Hemsworth’s wife, Elsa Pataky, plays both of the movie’s minor female roles, and the body count is so enormously grotesque that it can be downright unpleasant, but none of this matters. With the sole exception of Denis VilleneuveMr. Miller is the only director currently working who knows how to provide a spectacle. That is to say, a riveting action-based plot combined with incredibly powerful images. The sequence in the quarry contains some brutal car-based stunt work combined with Mr. Burke and Ms. Taylor-Joy regarding each other and both parts are sublimely watchable. And it absolutely lands the ending. What a lovely day indeed when you see Furiosa. This commitment to action, spectacle, and human feeling does nothing less than justify the entire art of cinema itself.

One last thing: in the end credits there is a land acknowledgement. This is the highest-profile movie I’ve yet seen contain one and also the first I’m aware of from a white male director. Sometimes, the world does change for the better.

Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga is now in theaters.

Learn more about the film, including how to get tickets, at the official website.

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