Cancel your plans this Saturday night, because the best movie of 2015 – the best directed, the best photographed, the most exciting, Oscars be damned – is coming to HBO.
MAD MAX: FURY ROAD, director George Miller’s return to the post-apocalyptic wasteland that he created in in three films with Mel Gibson back in the 1980s, is totally compelling from the first frame to the last: gorgeously shot, chock full of breathtaking, mostly practical stunts, packed with fascinating characters – Charlize Theron’s one-armed badass Imperator Furiosa, the skull-masked villain Immortan, the chrome-obsessed Doof Warrior, and whatever they call that dude on the bungee cords with the fire-spewing guitar in particular – and telling a mercifully simple and yet thematically resonant story.
It seems that Furiosa, one of the slavemaster Immortan’s drivers, has decided to liberate his five favorite “breeders,” and Immortan is pursuing them across the wasteland. In terms of plot, that’s about all there is, and that’s a huge plus: the movie doesn’t waste any time with “clever” twists or monologues; it just stomps on the gas pedal and doesn’t let up for two hours.
Tom Hardy steps into the role of Max, managing to make the titular character both interesting and sympathetic despite almost no dialogue – he’s the strong, silent type – and being more or less a supporting character in Furiosa’s jailbreak: first potential collateral damage, then a cornered, dangerous foe, then an uneasy ally, with each step in the relationship’s evolution organic and plausible.
And did I mention the action? Miller wisely used practical, real-world effects as much as possible here, deploying CGI mostly to add to the swirling wreckages and menacing dust clouds at the edges of the frame, rather than making it the whole meal. The cars are real, the crashes are real, and to a large degree, the bodies flying through the air are real.
This was easily the best time I had at the movies last year, and there’s not much point in saying any more than that. But I highly recommend that when you watch this movie, watch it on the biggest screen you have access to. Just because you can watch it on your phone or your iPad doesn’t mean you should!
MAD MAX: FURY ROAD premieres at 8pm ET Saturday on HBO, and will be available on-demand.