CONTAINS MINOR SPOILERS
Coming out of this film, there was only one word that immediately summed up my primary reaction. It's not a word I use very often about films, but the entirety of the English lexicon has no other conjunction of two syllables that fully do justice to what I'd watched. Mad Max: Fury Road is awesome. Literally awesome. Not metaphorically awesome, not awesome in a "cool!" or "wicked!" sense, but genuinely awesome, genuinely inspiring a feeling of awe. Two hours of full-on, copper-bottomed, all-stops-out, balls-to-the-wall, take-no-prisoners, death-or-glory, brain-annihilating superawesomeness that redefines and reinvents the very idea of action cinema. This isn't just what cinema was invented for, it's what your eyes were invented for.
It's unclear where Fury Road falls in the timeline of the previous three films: it's all set in the future anyway so it could well take place two days after Beyond Thunderdome. Max Rockatansky (now played by Tom Hardy) is still wandering the wastelands of the Australian deserts seeking redemption and a vestige of humanity: he's captured by the whooping War Boys and taken to the Citadel to be used as a blood bank to keep the soldiers going. Meanwhile, close-cropped one-armed Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron) steals a War Rig - an enormous tanker full of precious gasoline to head for her childhood home, "The Green Place", where there might be a better future. But she's also taken the wives of the Citadel's tyrant Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne), and he wants them back...
That's pretty much it for plot. Mad Max: Fury Road runs for two hours and if you took out the fights, chases and action sequences you would have maybe twenty minutes left. Such a high ratio of action to talk would normally be unthinkable, but George Miller is clearly not interested in following any established formula. And that ratio would be intolerable if the ninety-plus minutes of action were not of the highest calibre - but they are. They're clear, distinct, and show the whole picture rather than jagged close-ups from shaking cameras, yet at the same time they're right in the thick of the action and not standing back observing from a distance. Brilliantly structured and put together, Fury Road's chases are monumental set-pieces of mayhem and crashes and explosions that go on for reels at a time without a pause for breath or reflection, yet Miller makes sure at all times that we know exactly where each vehicle is and who's in it. (Props also for doing most of it with actual real vehicles smashing into each other and not relying on CGI except as a cleanup tool.) A director like Michael Bay would have micro-edited these sequences into an incoherent frenzy of near-subliminal nonsense. Or think back to the pre-credits chase of Quantum Of Solace where the action is cut together so fast that's impossible on first viewing to even tell which car James Bond is driving!
If that's not enough....the film looks absolutely gorgeous. Miller and DP John Seale have rendered everything in scorchingly bright colours, transforming the endless desert (actually Namibia) into a surreal, storm-strewn alien hellscape. Junkie XL's music score isn't up there with the originals' scores by Brian (Not That One) May or even Maurice Jarre, but competes with all the engines and clanging metal through sheer volume and wins through by actually being more musically interesting than expected. Design is fantastic, whether the wild costumes or the heavily customised vehicles such as a family saloon converted to run on caterpillar tracks (one of the cars definitely recalls the spiky VW from The Cars That Ate Paris). Some have whined pathetically about how Max almost seems reduced to a supporting character in his own movie, as the focus is at most split equally between Max and badass kickass Furiosa and they don't want to see Man playing second banana to mere Woman, but they're Cro-Magnon peabrains.
But at the heart of Mad Mad: Fury Road is a vision of a future world gone absolutely insane where mankind has devolved beyond barbarism to screaming, howling madness, and that world is brilliantly realised. If cinema is a drug then this is a pure unfiltered hit injected straight into the brain: a magnificent, delirious blast of screaming and explosions that just keeps going. I want to see it again. I need to see it again. It is awesome.