Having never seen any of the previous Mad Max films, the difficulty in understanding who any of these people were, what they were doing, why they were doing it or where they were doing it was extremely high. There's that post-apocalyptic, perpetual desert-look that reminded me of The Book of Eli. Given the accents of some of the characters, I'd guess it's set in Australia.
Director and co-writer George Miller constructs a ridiculously, weird society but no concept of the world at large. Yet, I suppose anything outside Miller's weird society doesn't matter. All that matters are the insulated series of action set-pieces, all revolving around and happening to a truck rig.
Because I didn't understand anything at least for the first, fifteen or twenty minutes, I didn't care. The desert-look and weirdness had me thinking not George Miller but George Lucas. I thought I was on one of several desert planets in the Star Wars prequels. Given the pace, ballsy and cartoonish nature of the action, centering on a constantly moving vehicle, I also thought this film was mashing up Fast & Furious 6 and Snowpiercer, but with way more dirt and sand.
Tom Hardy (Inception and The Dark Knight Rises) stars as a guy named Max. I'm sure there's a character there with a history, based on the previous films that can be inferred here, but again, I haven't seen those previous films, so to me he's just a generic action dude. He doesn't have much of a personality. He barely even speaks but to grunt or mumble the most basic and basest of questions.
Oscar-winner Charlize Theron (Monster and The Italian Job) co-stars as Furiosa. She drives the truck rig or what's called the war rig at the center of this film. She's nearly bald-headed. She only has one arm but a mechanical prosthetic, much like several characters in Star Wars. She works for an evil warlord or dictator named Immortan Joe who has a mechanical apparatus that helps him breathe, not much unlike that of Darth Vader, but she's clearly a bad-ass who wants some kind of liberation. She literally liberates a group of beautiful but tough women.
Nicholas Hoult (X-Men: First Class and A Single Man) plays Nux, a war-boy. He's a shirtless, bald, albino-looking, muscular, scarred and tattooed young man who also works for Immortan Joe. In fact, Nux worships Immortan Joe like a prophet or cult leader. In fact, the weird, desert society is very much like a cult that has in the middle Immortan Joe and his somewhat polygamist relationship with a group of women who seem enslaved to be baby-makers and not much else.
The group of women that Furiosa liberates is this group of Immortan Joe's baby-makers. A couple of whom are currently pregnant. Furiosa sneaks them out on her war rig and plans to take them to someplace safe. This upsets Immortan Joe and he sets out with his war-boys after them. Furiosa teams up with Max and Nux to escape. The action is mostly Furiosa driving the war rig with Max by her side with his gun as they fend off attacks from Immortan Joe. What's great is that the women Furiosa protects don't just sit back as damsels in distress. The women, even the pregnant ones, fight back too.
What's remarkable is the choreography and direction. It's so intricate, wild and intense. It's also a ballet of smashing cars as well as shots and stabs fired. There is a decent sense of escalation, even though a lot of it is repetitive. The only truly powerful moments are the hand-to-hand combat between Max and Furiosa and a moment that saw a young woman get killed falling from the war rig. It set stakes and consequences that most action films lack. That alone makes it the best action film of 2015... so far!
Four Stars out of Five. Rated R for intense sequences of violence throughout, and for disturbing images. Running Time: 2 hrs.