She Went Under the Wheels

It’s the time of the decade when everyone makes their Best of the last Ten Years lists. I generally read these lists mostly to nit-pick, or rail in anger as I shake my fist at the sky. I’m what you might call a contrarian. That’s sort of the point of this website. Hell, I recently wrote an article all about how Dr. Blair is the actual hero of John Carpenter’s The Thing.

I seem to have a problem. So far, most of these big best movies of the decade lists have a consensus for the number one slot. I want, deep down in my core, to explain to everyone on the internet why the movie everybody loves is trash and why some small gem you haven’t heard of is truly the greatest movie not just of the decade but of all times! I can’t though.

For one time, everyone has gotten it exactly right. The best film of the decade is, in fact, Mad Max: Fury Road. There just isn’t any question.  Sure, this decade gave us Get Out; Hereditary; High Life;  You Were Never Really Here; Hell or High Water; Raw; It Comes at Night; Mudbound; The VVitch; The Lobster; Dogtooth; Killing of a Sacred Deer; A Ghost Story; Inception; Arrival; Melancholia; Green Room; First Reformed; Holy Motors; Under the Skin; Manchester by the Sea; The Master; Spider-Man: Homecoming (see what I did there? I snuck my list of best movies of the decade into this article). But even given all of that competition, nothing really comes close to George Miller’s high-octane, unfiltered, practical effects driven, character driven, chaotic two-hour chase scene.

The story is, well, hardly anything at all. Max (Tom Hardy) is trying to survive in a postapocalyptic wasteland but gets captured by a group of car obsessed weirdos who strap him to the hood of a muscle car in order to use him for an ongoing blood transfusion during a chase through the desert (you with me so far?). The chase is happening because Furiosa (Charlize Theron) has stolen a big truck and the warlord’s sex slaves and is fleeing to who knows where.

Max gets loose. He gets tied up with Furiosa. They work together. Cars crash. People get shot. Things blow up.  That’s it. That’s the plot that Miller hangs one of the greatest cinematic achievements of all time on.

The plot isn’t that important. This is a character study and a political statement.  Miller is interested in how two incredibly independent characters can come together in aide of survival. He is interested in presenting a decidedly Feminist version of an action movie. He is interested in making a strong anti-authoritarian statement. He is interested in showing us that the people taken in by a demagogue can be converted, can be saved.

He does all of this while keeping the audience absolutely enthralled by every minute of the film. This is top adrenaline, non-stop chaos and action made by an expert of the action genre. This is the antithesis of the sort of loudly meaningless incoherence of Michael Bay’s Transformers movies.  Miller keeps the action easy to follow, even when vehicles are flipping through explosions and lightning storm. Every shot makes perfect sense.  

The film is very visual. It has very little dialogue. Max barely speaks. If you counts grunts, groans, and filing noises then Max has a normal amount of dialogue, but without that he is nearly mute. He does say his own name once, and it is an oddly powerful moment. Furiosa has most of the best lines. At one point, when asked what Max is going to day, she replies “Retaliate first” and that really sums up a lot about both characters.

Th cinematography is perfect. The editing, sound mixing, sound design, score, and everything else are perfect. The film has a weird lack of flaws. So, how can I be a contrarian? Here it comes, here’s my hot take:

Mad Max: Fury Road Black and Chrome (the black and white version of the film released on home video) is actually better than the theatrical version of the film. That’s as contrarian as I can get on this subject.