Stop reading now if you don't want spoilers.
The basic summary is this: The world is in shambles, irradiated from nuclear war to the point that most people's bone marrow has even become poisoned, creating what are called half-lifes. It's in this world Max Rocka-tansky (Tom Hardy) tries to survive, after failing the people who depended on him most, but he's captured by some of these half-lifes and taken to their base of operations, which is run by a man called Immortan Joe, who controls every aspect of their lives. He controls the water, he controls the food, he's created a Nordic-style religion based around himself and the vehicles his half-life War Boys use to bring supplies back to their base. It's some crazy ish, right here. And poor Max is dragged into it. Even worse for him, he's a universal donor and also out of his mind, leading him to be labeled "high octane."
Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron in one of her absolute best roles) is the driver of the war rig. She's one of Immortan Joe's top officers, one of his most trusted, so when she betrays him by stealing his wives and smuggling them to what she hopes is a better life, it sets off a high-speed car chase through the desert with Immortan Joe's allies in tow. And once again, poor Max is dragged into it.
Now, here is why this movie is SO DAMN AMAZING:
- The story: The story gives you about 3 minutes of exposition through Max's voice over and some news clips through the opening credits, and then you are OFF. It holds no punches. Just like Max, you are thrust into this world that owes you nothing--no explanations, no hand-holding, nothing. You either infer information from the scant dialogue and intuition, or you're lost. Regardless, once you're along for the ride, you figure out just how incredible this crazy-assed world is.
- The characters: I will begin this by saying that Imperator Furiosa is one of my favorite characters of all time. She's so ridiculously flawed and single-minded that it leads to her making some huge mistakes, but she's trying to help five women, referred to by one of the War Boys as "Immortan Joe's prized breeders," find a better life away from the insanity revolving around the man in question by taking them to the Green Place, the Land of Many Mothers, where she was born. Her journey is one that I can't get enough of, and so much of it is non-verbal. Charlize's eyes, face, body language all tell the story of Imperator Furiosa better than any conversation ever could.
And then there's Max. Max Rocka-tansky is probably my favorite Tom Hardy role, because like Charlize's Furiosa, so much of Max is in his expressions. Throughout most of the movie, that's what you get, with the addition of some sparadic PTSD flashbacks of his failures. Max is a man of few words; in the beginning of the movie, we see this disheveled man whose hair and beard are long and matted, and while we don't know how long he's been running, it's obvious it's been a long time since he's spoken to anyone. His sentences are clipped at first, sometimes one- or two-word answers if he speaks at all. For him, and for Furiosa, this is a journey of redemption, and it's there that they find common ground.
But don't discount Immortan Joe's stunningly beautiful wives. His favorite, The Splendid Angharad (Rosie Huntington-Whitely), is so much more than a pretty face and a baby vessel, though that's what Joe has reduced her to. Like the other wives, she shows a strength throughout the movie that, while different from Furiosa's, is no less incredible. In what is quite possibly my favorite scene in the whole movie, the war rig carrying the wives, Furiosa, and Max is going full-speed through a canyon with Immortan Joe's caravan close behind. Joe has a perfect shot to take Furiosa out, but in her greatest act of defiance, Splendid throws open the back door and leans out, her body, especially her pregnant belly, acting as a shield for this woman who has risked so much to lead them to a better life. It's truly a beautiful scene, one that gives me chills and tears every damn time.
Each wife has her own fully rounded personality, her own agency. I could honestly go on for hours about them. Even if they all have weird AF names.
The war boys, Joe's band of fanatical worshipers, are something else, man. They basically worship Joe and the vehicles, and it's truly something to behold. This is one of those chicken vs egg scenarios where you're not sure if they worshiped the vehicles before Joe stepped up to become their dictator, or if he lead them to that place. But the war boy culture is one that deserves study.
- The scenery: Bland hellscape? Check. But it's what you do with said bland hellscape that really matters. Because of the nuclear fallout mentioned during the beginning credits, the scenery itself becomes a character with its own story and background.
- The stunt work: Fury Road is a throwback to a time before CGI became the go-to for stunts and set pieces. Filmed in Namibia, South Africa, and Australia, there's hardly a green screen in sight. Over 150 stuntmen were used in the movie, and the badass Mothers actually did a lot of their own stunts.
However, when the CGI does show up, it's INCREDIBLE. Ending the first act of the movie is a huge storm wall that Furiosa drives into in the hope of losing her pursuers. Inside that huge storm wall is basically weather hell--multiple (!!!) tornadoes, bruising rain, and enough lightning to make it look more like Heavy Metal than a Mad Max movie.
- The pacing: This movie starts off like a gunshot and doesn't stop. Sometimes it can be a little sensory overload, which is part of why it requires multiple viewings (the other part is because IT'S AWESOME). From the beginning chase scene to that last moment between Max and Furiosa, it barely gives you time to catch your breath before the next action sequence starts up. It's riveting. If your heart isn't pounding out of your chest, then either you're not paying attention, or you are dead.
- Max and Furiosa: They're my OTP. My Ultimate Bromance. My loves. My babies. I ship them. I don't even know in what way, but I ship them so hard.