Film review: Mad Max: Fury Road (15, 120 mins)

Apocalypse now: Mad Max takes place in a world of chaos
Apocalypse now: Mad Max takes place in a world of chaos
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Women on top in adrenaline-fuelled epic

Fasten your seat belts and hold on white-knuckle tight as writer-director George Miller invites you to an orgy of high-octane auto mayhem that makes Fast & Furious 7 looks like a sedate Sunday afternoon drive.

Mad Max: Fury Road, the fourth instalment of the post-apocalyptic franchise, delivers a blitzkrieg of propulsive pursuits featuring almost 150 hand-built death machines of every conceivable shape and size.

These thrillingly choreographed sequences of carmageddon build to a jaw-dropping finale, replete with roof-mouthed metronome-like poles that allow road warriors to swoop down and snatch their prey from adjacent vehicles.

If the original Mad Max released in 1979 was soaked in testosterone, Fury Road adds a whiff of oestrogen by introducing a badass tribe of warrior women called the Vuvalini, who ride proudly into battle armed with explosive-tipped spears.

One prime specimen is Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron), enigmatic driver of a mighty 18-wheeler mobile war rig.

She reports to Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne), despotic leader of the Citadel, who is propagating the species in his cruel image using The Wives.

These five enslaved women (Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, Riley Keough, Zoe Kravitz, Courtney Eaton, Abbey Lee) are impregnated by Immortan Joe to provide him with a viable male heir.

Furiosa kidnaps The Wives and flees across the Wasteland with Immortan Joe and his army in hot pursuit. Among the chasing horde is shaven-headed, tattooed acolyte Nux (Nicholas Hoult), who believes death in battle will grant him entry to the warrior paradise of Valhalla.

As Nux puts the pedal to the metal, his poisoned blood is replenished by a living donor, Max Rockatansky (Tom Hardy), strapped to the front of the hot rod.

During the chase, Max breaks free from Nux and begrudgingly helps Furiosa and The Wives to evade Immortan Joe’s clutches, bound for a lush oasis known as the Green Place.

Mad Max: Fury Road is a tour-de-force of adrenaline-pumping thrills. Computer trickery is kept to a minimum: stunt drivers performed these mind-boggling feats in real vehicles at dizzying speeds.

When director Miller briefly does take his foot off the accelerator, he hopes we’ll be giddy enough on exhaust fumes to care deeply about plot and characterisation. Both sit quietly in the back seat, waiting for the next rev of a V-8 engine.

Hardy perfects an array of grunts and growls in place of dialogue. He’s a dull boy though next to Theron’s gutsy alpha female, who goes toe-to-toe and trades blow for bone-crunching blow with the grizzled anti-hero. Keays-Byrne takes a leaf out of Hardy’s Dark Knight Rises book and dons a nightmarish face mask made of horse teeth.

Miller’s rambunctious ride is heightened by a deafening soundtrack courtesy of Grammy-nominated composer Junkie XL. You’ll feel the teeth rattle in your head as his sonic boom of drums, strings, thrashing electric guitars and a soaring 80-voice choir competes with the crash-bang-wallop of the on-screen carnage.

Action/Sci-Fi/Thriller

Tom Hardy, Charlize Theron, Nicholas Hoult, Hugh Keays-Byrne, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, Riley Keough, Zoe Kravitz, Courtney Eaton. Director: George Miller.

Released: May 14 (UK & Ireland)

Star rating: 9/10