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“Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga” Review: Another Mighty, Petrol-Soaked Masterpiece

Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga

It’s rare for a fifth installment of any film franchise to be eagerly anticipated, but the prequel to 2015’s “Mad Max: Fury Road” has generated feverish excitement. How does director George Miller follow arguably the greatest action movie of the last decade? With “Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga” premiering at the Cannes Film Festival, it turns out you drop Max from everything but the title and focus on how Fury Road’s standout character became the fiercest female in blockbuster cinema.

“Furiosa” hits the big screen as a live-wire origin story. Where Charlize Theron burned through the screen as the one-armed driver who matched Max in ferocity and road skills, Anya Taylor-Joy takes the wheel now. But that’s only after a thrilling first act where 10-year-old Furiosa (Alyla Browne, the lead in the forthcoming mutant spider romp “Sting”) is snatched from her family in a lush oasis by the biker minions of warlord Dementus. Chris Hemsworth tackles Dementus with aplomb, even more villainous than his role as a murderous cult leader in the underrated thriller “Bad Times At The El Royale.” Furiosa’s super-sniper mother gives chase across the post-apocalyptic wasteland, but her pursuit comes to nothing. After witnessing her mother’s torture and murder, young Furiosa is eventually bartered by Dementus in a deal with masked citadel leader Immortan Joe (Lachy Hulme, taking over from the late Hugh Keays-Byrne).

In a middle section somehow even more explosively impressive than the opening, Furiosa travels with truck-driving Praetorian Jack (Tom Burke from quality dramas such as “The Souvenir” and “The Wonder”) between the citadel where water exists, Gas Town – the wasteland fuel depot that Dementus has taken by force – and the Bullet Farm, an arms dump. These three locations are interdependent and accessible only to the most hardened road warriors driving hell-for-leather across the highways. Much like the difficulties faced by Max and Furiosa in “Fury Road,” there are scores of robbers trying to stop Jack and his cargo. Eventually, a Dementus double-cross and ensuing war engulf the wasteland, just as Jack and Furiosa’s bond strengthens.

Miller, co-creator of the franchise, has collaborated with “Fury Road” co-writer Nico Lathouris and, crucially, re-teamed with his technical crew who won five Oscars last time out: production designer Colin Gibson, editor Margaret Sixel, sound mixer Ben Osmo, costume designer Jenny Beavan, and hair and makeup whiz Lesley Vanderwalt. The result is another extraordinary blockbuster juggernaut that, in some sequences, somehow excels even its predecessor, arresting viewers with its booming, utterly immersive world of grease, dust, motorbikes, and carnage.

Some may argue that Taylor-Joy’s lack of dialogue – she has just 30 spoken lines – matters, but acting is not just talking. Taylor-Joy’s expressive face and, crucially, eyes, do much of the heavy lifting here. Burke, an unexpected delight as tough guy Jack, is the biggest surprise, while an underplayed conclusion after such tremendous noise and fire gives the whole piece an added, thoughtful dimension. Brilliant and unmissable.

Credit: NME

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