Mad Max: Fury Road
Once again we are in a post-Apocalyptic world (devoid of any visible zombies, although I'm sure they are out there in the vast empty wasteland that Earth has become) where gasoline and water are scarce commodities, and where the dignity of what's left of mankind has been trampled by ruthless chieftains like Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne) who keeps a harem of women, and whose army of War Boys capture Max (Tom Hardy). Our eponymous hero is a loner who can easily be an American hero right out of the pages of James Fenimore Cooper. He is taken prisoner by Immortan Joe's men and turned into a "blood bag" for a sick War Boy named Nux (Nicholas Hoult). When Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron) drives off-course in her mission to find gasoline, Immortan Joe realizes that she has betrayed him by stealing some of his women, one of whom is pregnant. And the chase is on! This is when the movie gets loud, down and dirty: but you wouldn't have it otherwise. It is, after all, a Mad Max movie!
But this film goes beyond the twisted metal and explosions that are the bread and butter of the summer cinematic season. At the heart of Fury Road is a tale of vengeance and redemption, all major themes of the American western, a genre that this film often pays tribute to, especially in its photographic wide open vistas and in the depiction of its laconic hero. Or heroine, for that matter. This film is very much about Ms. Theron's character: a damaged, but strong-willed, valiant woman with a prosthetic arm. She belongs to the same breed as Julie Christie in Robert Altman's McCabe and Mrs. Miller or Claudia Cardinale in Sergio Leone's Once Upon a Time in the West. By far, it is the feminist film of the year.
The film is also impressive when it comes to the amount of images that linger in one's mind. George Miller knows how to set up a scene and how much to hold a shot so that it becomes indelible. The opening sequence of Max chomping down on a live two-headed gecko, and a truly surreal nighttime shot of people on stilts walking through a poisonous bog are two memorable moments from this film.
Finally a winner in a summer season of many forgettable films.