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Cannes 2024 – Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga ★★★★★



Released: 24 May 2024

Director: George Miller

Starring: Anya Taylor-Joy, Chris Hemsworth

Is there a more evocatively named female film character than Imperator Furiosa? You almost need nothing more to tell you that this is a woman with a bad-ass attitude, one hell of a backstory, a raging grievance, the ruthless mettle to pull off revenge, and a turbo charged, adrenaline packed determination to right wrongs.

A film led by her, therefore, cannot let her down. And director George Miller doesn’t, with this latest addition to the Mad Max saga. Not for a second.

Furiosa is a ferocious, bombastic, relentlessly paced epic, engulfing your senses and searing itself into your organs throughout its 2 hour 28 minute runtime. Yet the intimate detail of the world it creates is meticulously rendered in every last costume, every line of face and body paint and the aesthetic of every vehicle used. Each item linked to the characters is an extension of them, adding greater knowledge of what drives them and how they navigate the world. As a result, amidst the operatic action, the human, intimate moments strike very effectively.

Furiosa is a triumph on every level. What few, niggling imperfections there are, are absorbed within the stupendously successful rendition of the overall experience.

Taking us back into the scorched, post apocalyptic wastelands last seen in 2015’s magnificent Fury Road, when Charlize Theron portrayed the older Furiosa, a bald headed, one-armed powder keg of a road warrior, the time shifts back 15 years to the renegade warrior’s childhood, with her mother, in a fiercely protected, secret place of abundance, the Green Place of Many Mothers. The story told in chapters.

Alyla Browne is a mesmerising, intense screen presence as the child Furiosa. Remarkably she looks exactly how you imagine Anya Taylor-Joy might have looked as a child. Charlee Fraser is also tremendous as Mary Jo Bassa, her tigress of a mother prepared to go to any lengths to save her child. With only a handful of words Fraser portrays a strong, determined, lethal woman who would not be out of place in a Terminator movie.

The lengthy set up for the adult Furiosa’s story gives the film its heart and is a visual gift for the audience. Simon Duggan’s cinematography is stunning and spectacular, in the fullest sense of those words, throughout the film but is at its lush best in this early section. If landscapes could whisper feelings they would sound like his Green place and endless deserts.

Furiosa is a prequel to Fury Road but deserves a prequel of its own from these breathtaking opening sequences.

While out apple picking in the place of abundance, young Furiosa, as fearless as her mother, spies rusty bikes and a horde of equally rusty bikers in the desert wasteland nearby. Sneaking over and severing the fuel hoses of the bikes trespassing near her home. She is caught, snatched by the bikers and taken to their leader, the also fabulously and evocatively named Dementus (Chris Hemsworth). Impressed by her healthy appearance in a land of emaciated, rotten teethed, disease ravaged bodies and her silent challenge to him, he seeks to bring her up as his ‘daughter’ egotistically calling her ‘Little D’.

Furiosa is less enamoured of her new pa, choosing to be mute as she silently plots a way back home and to avenge her mother’s brutal, biblical (splayed on a cross) slaying at his hands.

Despite having the titular role, adult Furiosa (Anya Taylor Joy) doesn’t appear on screen until well into the story. While she doesn’t have the statuesque physique of Charlize Theron, Taylor-Joy acquits herself well as an action heroine with minimal dialogue. But it’s Chris Hemsworth, bare chested, wildly long haired, raggedy bearded and with a prosthetic nose and bad teeth, riding his Ben Hur style chariot, who dominates every scene he’s in and gives the film its swagger. As someone at the press conference described it, his Dementus shifts between the evil of a Darth Vader mixed with the craziness of a Looney Tunes character.

The action animalistic, raw, sadistic, fast and furious. Its pacing relentlessly dizzying. The bike and vehicle chases wild. Yet the film never loses sight of what Furiosa has lost. The trailer gave us the lowdown. “You took everything from me, my mother, my childhood ” Furiosa intones menacingly before roaring “I want it back “.

Dementus too occasionally shows glimpses of the private hell that fuels his brutality, most poignantly displayed in the teddy bear he wears on his armour in memory of his slain children. Tom Burke as Praetorian Jack, a road warrior with a penchant for blue greasepaint on his forehead, is underused but makes the most of a rare appearance in an action movie. However, it’s one of the tiny gripes against the film that there are several characters too easily disposed, once they’ve served their brief purpose. The wordless understanding Jack and Furiosa develop and the budding romance they might have is one of the casualties of the constant need to move the story on.

As director, George Miller must get major props as the visionary genius behind the Mad Max series which started in 1979 with Mel Gibson and this latest addition to it but besides Simon Duggan, film editor Margaret Sixel, costume designer Jenny Beavan and composer Tom Holkenborg and the stunt cast also deserve plaudits.

Furiosa is not perfect but as a cinematic experience, thrill ride, visual spectacle and dizzying action adventure. It deserves top marks.

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