Wednesday, May 06, 2015
Directed by George Miller and screenplay by Miller and James McCausland from a story by Miller and Byron Kennedy, Mad Max is the story of a man living in dystopian world where an energy crisis has created chaos in his homeland. The film is a post-apocalyptic film set in a future where society has lost all control as a man tries to make sense of his surroundings in this world of absolute turmoil. Starring Mel Gibson, Joanne Samuel, Hugh Keays-Byrne, Steve Bisley, Tim Burns, and Roger Ward. Mad Max is a riveting and terrifying film from George Miller.
Set in a not-too distant future where the energy crisis has crumbled the Australian landscape, the film revolves around a cop who is trying to maintain order in a world that has gone completely chaotic. Especially as a motorcycle gang has run rampant all over the country forcing the police to take action as its top officer is a man named Max (Mel Gibson). It’s a film that plays into a man trying to maintain some law and order in a world where no one is safe as Max is just a simple family man who was just trying to do his job when he managed to take down a notorious biker named Nightrider (Vincent Gil) which would set a series of catastrophic events to emerge. Especially as Max’s life is in danger as the biker gang that is terrorizing the land wants to kill Max for taking down Nightrider as it’s a film that isn’t just about vengeance but also a man coping with his responsibilities and to deal with men who just want to scare everyone.
The film’s screenplay by George Miller and James McCausland has a very offbeat structure where its first half is about Max taking down Nightrider in the first ten minutes and the reaction from the gang whose leader Toecutter (Hugh Keays-Byrne) is a complete anarchist who believes in taking anything that he needs and bring fear to people. Upon learning what happened to his friend Nightrider, he decides to just amp up his thirst for chaos by sending out his young protégé the Boy (Tim Burns) to cause trouble as he would gain the ire of Max’s partner Goose (Steve Bisley). The film’s second half would be more about Max and his reaction to Toecutter’s attacks as he would try to escape from his work to spend time with his family. Even as Max and his family would have some uneasy encounters with Toecutter’s gang as it would prompt Max to go on a quest of his own.
Miller’s direction is quite stylish as he shoots the film on location in remote small towns and areas near Melbourne, Australia where it has this sense of a world that is in crisis. Since it does take place in a not-too distant future, it is a film that does feel like it is still set in the 20th Century where not much progress has happened leaving for Toecutter and his gang to run rampant in many places. Miller’s usage of wide and medium shots definitely help play into the visual aspect of the film in terms of making these locations integral to the story as well as these very intense camera work into the chase scenes. Much of it has Miller employing some unique angles and close-ups to the cars and tires as they go very fast to play into a sense of danger.
Miller’s compositions and his approach to close-ups add to the drama as well as the tense moments in key scenes such as Max’s wife Jessie (Joanne Samuel) and her encounter with Toecutter as it would set for some very chilling moments in the third act. Especially as it would play into Max’s own development from this loving family man with a sense of duty into someone that becomes hell-bent on taking the law into his own hands. The sense of violence does intensify as the film progresses where there’s elements of suspense as it plays into the sense of anarchy that emerges in these chase scenes where a baby would stand in the middle of the road unaware of what is happening. It is among these moments in the film that showcases a world where law and order is gone and no one is safe forcing a man to take action. Overall, Miller creates a gripping yet harrowing film about a man trying to bring some order to a dystopian world.
Cinematographer David Eggby does amazing work with the film‘s cinematography to bring in something natural to the locations while using some low-key lights for some of the interiors and nighttime interior/exterior scenes. Editors Tony Peterson and Cliff Hayes do brilliant work with the editing with its approach to fast-cuts to play into the intensity of the chase scenes as well a few transition wipes and other stylish cuts to play into the film‘s suspense and drama. Art director John Dowding does terrific work with the design of some of the places such as the police headquarters and bars to play into a world that is in ruin where those who stand for good are trying to keep it vital.
Costume designer Clare Griffin does nice work with the costumes from the leather uniforms the cops wear as well as the wild clothes of Toecutter and his gang. The sound work of Ned Dawson, Byron Kennedy, Roger Savage, and Gary Wilkins is fantastic for its array of sound effects and textures to play into the sense of violence and chaos that looms all over the film. The film’s music by Brian May is excellent for its bombastic orchestral score that plays into the action and suspense along with somber pieces for its drama as it adds to the intensity of the film.
The film’s incredible cast include some notable small roles from Brendan Heath as Max and Jessie’s baby son, Nico Lathouris as a mechanic Max would meet during his vacation, Robina Chaffey as a nightclub singer, Sheila Florence as Jessie’s elderly friend May, Jonathan Hardy as the police commissioner, and Vincent Gil as the notorious cop-killer yet speed-racer Nightrider. Roger Ward is terrific as the police leader Fifi as a man who is quite tough but also has a sensitive side as it relates to plants while Geoff Parry is superb as Toecutter’s brutal lieutenant Bubba Zanetti. Tim Burns is excellent as the cowardly yet trouble-making Johnny “the Boy” Boyle as a man who took part in a couple’s rape and managed to get away with it. Steve Bisley is brilliant as Max’s partner Goose as a cop who is good at riding motorcycles as he isn’t happy about the Boy’s release in his own desire to set things right.
Joanne Samuel is wonderful as Max’s wife Jessie who would have an encounter with Toecutter and his gang as she starts to fear for her own life while dealing with the nightmares Max had early on following Toecutter’s wrath in the film’s first half. Hugh Keays-Byrne is fantastic as Toecutter as this leader of a ruthless biker gang who wreaks havoc around everything that is around him as he is a man with very little remorse while displaying some twisted charm. Finally, there’s Mel Gibson in a magnificent performance in his breakthrough role as Max Rockatansky as a simple family man who displays a sense of duty and responsibility as he copes with the sense of disorder around him as Gibson brings something that is crazy but also balance it with some sensitivity to make Max a very unique character.
Mad Max is a phenomenal film from George Miller that features a tremendous breakthrough performance from Mel Gibson. Not only is the film one of the most enthralling action-suspense films of the late 70s but also one of the most gripping road/chase films ever made. Even as it plays into elements of dystopia with a sense of nihilism that wouldn’t be for everyone yet manages to have enough elements for all kinds of audiences. In the end, Mad Max is an incredible film from George Miller.
George Miller Films: Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior - (Twilight Zone: The Movie-Nightmare at 20,000 Feet) - (Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome) - (The Witches of Eastwick) - (Lorenzo’s Oil) - (40,000 Years of Dreaming) - (Babe: Pig in the City) - (Happy Feet) - (Happy Feet Two) - Mad Max: Fury Road
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