‘Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga’ Review: Purposeful Savagery, Perfectly Crafted Spectacle

This 'Fury Road' prequel is a revved up thrill ride that never forgets the human characters at its core.

Anya Taylor-Joy in Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga. Warner Bros. Pictures

The post-apocalyptic world of Mad Max has a tenuous relationship with women. The first two films, which starred Mel Gibson as the titular hero, used female characters solely as emotional bait, although 1985’s trilogy-ending Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome eventually introduced Tina Turner as a villainous matriarch. George Miller, who has helmed the franchise since its inception, attempted to rectify this imbalance in 2015’s Mad Max: Fury Road, a bombastic action movie that deserved every accolade thrown its way. It starred Charlize Theron as one-armed warrior Imperator Furiosa in a performance that far overshadowed the movie’s assumed star, Tom Hardy, who took over the Mad Max role from Gibson. Although the rest of its female cast, comprised partly of models like Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, were relegated to playing ethereal breeders, Theron created a memorable, lasting character in a genre often dominated by male heroes. 

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FURIOSA: A MAD MAX SEQUEL ★★★★ (4/4 stars)
Directed by: George Miller
Written by: George Miller, Nico Lathouris
Starring: Anya Taylor-Joy, Chris Hemsworth, Tom Burke, Alyla Browne
Running time: 148 mins.

It’s Furiosa who is at the heart of Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga, a prequel to Fury Road that features none of the same cast but many connective threads. She’s played here by two actors, Anya Taylor-Joy and Alyla Browne, and both embody the character with stewing rage. Or, as someone in the film puts it, a “purposeful savagery.” Remarkably, Browne carries the story, which traces Furiosa’s childhood from a green-filled place of abundance to imprisonment by a warlord named Dementus (Chris Hemsworth), for the first hour. There’s an almost seamless transition between to the two actors (and, later, Theron) and not just because they look so similar. After Furiosa is stolen from her home, forced to watch her mother brutally die and then caged, there is a palpable rage in her eyes. It drives her through the film, which ultimately spans 15 years. 

Chris Hemsworth in Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga. Jasin Boland

Miller is an undeniable storyteller and filmmaker, and Furiosa is an epic, world-building creation imbued with its own vast mythology and expansive scope. Within the Wasteland, the audience is introduced to places like Gas Town, the Bullet Farm, and the Green Place, as well as the characters who inhabit the remains of human civilization. Immortan Joe, the villain of Fury Road now played by Lachy Hulme, looms large and we see Furiosa traded to him by Dementus, a power-hungry warlord who hopes to seize control of the Citadel. It is in the Citadel that Furiosa learns mechanics and engineering, and eventually drives a gleaming new War Rig alongside Praetorian Jack (Tom Burke). She’s capable, skilled, and unrelenting as she plans an escape back to the Green Place. Furiosa and Jack have a romance, of sorts, although it’s unnecessary for the plot, told over five chapters. 

Tom Burke and Anya Taylor-Joy in Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga. Jasin Boland

Like Fury Road, Furiosa is best when it’s in motion. An action sequence where a rebel group assaults the War Rig from the land and air is almost unbelievable in its perfectly-crafted visual spectacle. To know that most of it was done practically is even more impressive, especially when set against Tom Holkenborg’s pulsating, dramatic score. The costumes, by Jenny Beavan, are a masterpiece, each detail considered and important. It’s the height of ambitious filmmaking, but Miller and his crew never seem to falter. The actors, too, are invested (maybe too invested if you read Taylor-Joy’s recent interviews) and Hemsworth gives a live-wire performance that he clearly relishes. The film augments a viewer’s understanding of Fury Road, although it’s necessary to have seen any of the prior movies to enjoy Furiosa for what it is—a revved up thrill ride that never forgets the human characters at its core. 

‘Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga’ Review: Purposeful Savagery, Perfectly Crafted Spectacle