The new Mad Max movie ‘Furiosa’ is simply brilliant, an enthralling character-driven action film that leaves ‘Fury Road’ in the dust

Road warrior: Anya Taylor-Joy gets it in gear in ‘Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga’.

FURIOSA: A MAD MAX SAGA ****1/2 (148 minutes) MA
So, it’s finally here. Any good?

Hmm. Not bad. A bit loud.

Actually, Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga is hands-down brilliant, exceeding all expectations in terms of story and spectacle – especially after the overrated, underwhelming Mad Max: Fury Road from 2015.

Maestro George Miller has outdone himself here, bringing an expansive vision to the post-apocalyptic world he created that has the dramatic and visual texture of a true epic. As well as being totally exhilarating – and unlike the previous Mad Maxfilms – Furiosa is serious and distinctly aimed at adults, making the movie feel as though it is recounting a legendary story.

It’s an admittedly brave move, presumably prioritizing those legions who have grown up with Mad Max lore since the advent of the ground-breaking, culture-changing original Mad Max in 1979. Not that anybody will feel short-changed, with those who fell in love with the white-painted Warboys from Fury Road being well-catered for.

Mounted on an eye-popping scale and filled with staggering pursuit scenes that make those in Fury Road look like training videos, the strong, character-driven narrative delves into the punishing backstory of anti-heroine Furiosa.

With her usually beautiful visage sun-scorched and caked in grit, Anya Taylor-Joy (The Queen’s Gambit; Last Night in Soho; The Menu) steps into the boots of Charlize Theron, who played Fiorosa in Fury Road.

Without rushing matters – Miller paces the film splendidly over its long running time – we witness how the young teenage Furiosa (Alyla Browne) was stolen from her warrior mother Mary (Charlee Fraser) and her idyllic oasis home.

She is cruelly enslaved by Moses-bearded overlord Dementus (Chris Hemsworth), the appropriately named head of an especially brutal, heavily motorized gang whose ambition is to reign supreme across the Wasteland by controlling industrial centres such as Bullet Farm and Gas Town (neatly explaining where all the ammo and petrol comes from.)

Amidst all the throttling, horse-powered mayhem – petrolheads and devotees of high-quality action might well pass out in delirium by the second act – Miller maintains focus on Furiosa, detailing how the ordeal of being “adopted” by Dementus forges a resilient, defiant spirit hard-wired to getting back home, but not before exacting revenge on her tormentor.

Visually, the film is often breathtaking: the editing, visual effects and cinematography (by Simon Duggan) are outstanding, with special note going to the masterful long single takes that occur in the middle of the many prolonged, magnificently choreographed action sequences.

These moments will leave old-school action aficionados gobsmacked, especially those long-fatigued by the deeply annoying, tension-breaking practice of cutting every second or so. Let’s take it as a reaction against all that frenetic editing that has largely tainted the art of action cinema over the past 25 years.

Aurally, the film is graced with an evocative – if occasionally ear-splitting – sound design that knows when to use, and not use, its thunderous music score, particularly when the chase is on.

While there are a few gags here and there Miller wisely keeps the comic touches to a minimum.

Heretical as it is to publically admit, Furiosa is a far more satisfying ride that Fury Road, a fine but massively over-praised film that suffered from having a weak two-act story. Furiosa has four and is far more invested in character.

With top performances from Joy, Hemsworth and British actor Tom Burke as Praetorian Jack, an operator who anchors Furiosa’s jagged journey.

There’s no genius involved in guessing that Furiosa is bound to be huge, the hope being that, now that it’s all set up, Miller won’t wait so long before taking us back to the Wasteland.

Fun Footnote: The troubled, time-stressed story about the production of Fury Road is arguably more entertaining than the film itself. Here’s a link for those who have yet to enjoy this amusing, expensive tale.