Arriving in a blazing glory of dust and fire, ‘Mad Max: Fury Road’ quickly became one of the most talked-about and acclaimed blockbusters in recent memory. It was a must-see event, the kind of film you just had to see because everyone around you could not stop talking about it. At a time when the blockbuster seems to belong to comic books and superheroes, director George Miller calmly stepped in, resurrected his greatest creation and presented a masterclass in action filmmaking and storytelling. If you missed ‘Fury Road’ in the cinemas... well, no home entertainment experience will come close to recreating it, but this excellent Blu-ray release will just have to do.
Stripping narrative and character right back to the bone, Miller throws post-apocalyptic vigilante Max Rockatansky (Tom Hardy) into the path of Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron), commander of the lead war rig of maniacal leader Immortan Joe (High Keays-Byrne). Seeking a better life away from his tyranny, she has kidnapped his precious wives and is being pursued by his army of insane cars and even more insane war boys. Caught in the middle, Max has to do what he can just to stay alive.
The rules of action filmmaking have basically been redefined and rewritten with ‘Fury Road’. It’s startlingly simple, devoid of extraneous dialogue or characters so that it cuts with the precision of a surgical tool. Instead, Miller and his team grasp the visual storytelling possibilities of cinema and push them to their limits. There are few blockbusters as visually breathtaking as this one, the images poetic and preposterous and rendered with as little CGI as possible. Vehicles and human beings collide with one another with jaw-dropping ferocity in what is essentially the most sublime two-hour chase sequence, all the more impactful because it’s so obviously in-camera. However, what really pushes ‘Fury Road’ from a great visual feat to one of the films of this century is its startling intelligence. Every ounce of this film is well-considered and vital - and how often do you come across a major action film where the most powerful character is a woman? After so many dunderheaded and poorly executed big budget messes, this film feels like some mad gift from the gods.
When I reviewed ‘Mad Max: Fury Road’ after its cinema release, I found it pretty much impossible to adequately describe it. I’ve seen it many times since, and to be honest, even though you could probably write a book about this film and still never address everything, words really just don’t do it justice. All I can really say is this: if you haven’t seen it, you absolutely have to fix this. Films like ‘Fury Road’ don’t just come along rarely, they pretty much never come around at all. It’s a fiery, operatic, bat-shit insane masterpiece, probably the most important piece of blockbuster cinema since ‘The Dark Knight’, and just as groundbreaking. Find the biggest screen you can, crank the volume up as loud as is legal and strap yourself in tight - you’ve really never seen anything like this before.
PICTURE & SOUND
If the transfer on ‘Fury Road’ had been anything less than perfect, I would have thrown the Blu-ray disc at the wall. Lucky for the disc's sake, perfect is exactly what it is. The 1080p 2.40:1 transfer is spectacular - the clarity and detail is startling and, most importantly, the colours explode off the screen. Miller and cinematographer John Seale defied the cliché of post-apocalyptic greyness and went for a world bursting with hallucinatory colour. In high definition, this decision looks absolutely breathtaking. And then there’s the Dolby TrueHD 7.1 track, which has to be one of the finest you’ll ever come across. It’s a thunderous track, working the speakers incredibly hard, and yet somehow everything is in perfect sonic balance - though there’s little dialogue, at no point is it overwhelmed by the business of the sound design or score. (The track may also be Atmos-compatible, but my system doesn’t register if it is.) Basically, if there’s a better video and audio presentation out there of any film, I’ll be very surprised.
Films like ‘Fury Road’ don’t just come along rarely, they pretty much never come around at all.
There’s a healthy collection of featurettes included on the ‘Fury Road’ Blu-ray, amounting to about a hour and a half of material. ‘Maximum Fury: Filming Fury Road’ (28:38) gives a great overview of the making of the film, while ‘Mad Max: Fury on Four Wheels’ (22:37) and ‘The Tools of the Wasteland' (14:26) cover the vehicles and production design, and ‘The Road Warriors: Max and Furiosa’ (11:18) and ‘The Five Wives: So Shiny, So Chrome’ (11:11) look at the central characters. What comes across in all the material is the dedication and passion everyone has for the film, and what an enormous undertaking it was. If you had any doubts about the hand-made quality of the film, these featurettes dispel them. There’s also ‘Crash & Smash’ (4:02), a startling collection of raw footage of the action sequences without CGI or colour grading enhancement, and a collection of unfinished deleted scenes. Miller has spoken about there being a black-and-white and silent version of the film in existence, so it wouldn’t surprise me if a special edition release is just waiting around the corner - but for the time being this is still a terrific release of a monumental film.