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Fast and Furiosa - Mad Max: Fury Road - The Review

18/05/2015 22:55 BST | Updated 17/05/2016 10:59 BST

"The vision dims. All that remains are memories. I remember a time of VCRs, ruined dreams... But most of all, I remember The Road Warrior. The man we called "Max." 

To understand who he was, you have to go back to another time..."

It's 1985 and Mel Gibson, in the role that made his name, looks more like miffed Max rather than Mad. 

Little wonder. He's become a co-star in his own franchise, eclipsed by Tina Turner in Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome, a kid-centric movie which tones down the ultra violence of The Road Warrior, and takes the saga in a new direction. 

I wait in anticipation for the next chapter. 

And wait. 

And... nothing. 

Max fades into cinema history, a memory of when director George Miller was the king of action cinema rather than creator of worthy dramas like Lorenzo's Oil or kids' fodder Babe 2 and the Happy Feet movies. 

Then, when it looks like all hope is lost, and after assorted false starts, images of Tom Hardy as the new Max Rockatansky leak onto the inter web. And the teen inside me hopes Fury Road will be worthy of the wait. 

But how many times have we been let down after long gaps? 

The Phantom Menace squandered 16 years of anticipation post Return of the Jedi, as did Prometheus, 33 years after Alien

Just how good could Mad Max be three decades beyond Beyond Thunderdome?

Thankfully all that hope was justified in two hours of dazzling, audacious action which left me thrilled, amazed, stunned and hugely entertained. 

For the first half, Max is once more a co-star in his own movie, Miller cleverly hiding Hardy's face behind a Bane-style mask as old school fans adjust to the new actor behind the hero. 

The flipside is saga veteran Hugh Keays Byrne (Toecutter in the first Mad Max) as the despotic, iconic water-hoarding overlord Immortan Joe. (His mask makes him look like a great Star Wars bad guy). 

If this were silent cinema, there's no doubt who's the hero and who's the villain, which is a refreshing change in these days when there are usually so many ambiguous protagonists and antagonists. 

The scope is enormous, production design outstanding and the score glorious. 

Flashes of characters that look like they've stepped from banned classic Freaks, assorted Fellini films and Lordi promos. Epic vistas which add a depth and scale to Miller's extraordinary vision. 

 While Tom Hardy perfectly captures the haunted spirit of the eponymous character, Charlize Theron steals the film as Furiosa, the maverick trucker channelling Alien's Ripley and Terry Gilliam's Jill (from his masterpiece Brazil). 

Then there's the vehicles. An array of gas-guzzling, formidable cut and shuts, including a spiked VW (which may pay homage to Peter Weir's The Cars That Ate Paris), and the star of the show, Furiosa's war rig, which tips its hat (or bonnet) to Mad Max 2's key tanker.

Though they dominate the frame for much of the movie, the bond between Max and Furiosa is almost palpable, a glance between them far more powerful than any cheesy dialogue. 

Miller knows the power of pure cinema and the balletic stunts are as vital as those silent exchanges between characters. 

Good support comes from Nicholas Hoult as the determined Nux. Looking like an extra from Duran Duran's Wild Boys video (itself inspired by Max 2), courting a glorious demise, yet denied death, and accidentally becoming heroic in the process. 

While the Brides, willowy young women integral to the plot, look more like they've stepped from a catwalk than a nuclear scorched gantry, Miller proves that in his world even the drop dead gorgeous aren't safe. 

There's no doubt this will inspire a new wave of cheap imitations, all trying to crack that Miller magic. Many will fail. 

It was a long and rocky road to Max's return, but the journey was well worthwhile. 

Inspired lunacy of the highest order, or 'over the top gear' if you prefer.