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Nathan Weinbender reviews "Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga"

Film still from Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga (2024), featuring Anya Taylor-Joy as Furiosa [pictured right of center].
Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga, Domain Entertainment/Kennedy Miller Mitchell/Warner Bros. Pictures, 2024.
Film still from Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga (2024), featuring Anya Taylor-Joy as Furiosa [pictured right of center].


The devil is in the details, and any 60-second stretch of Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga is packed with enough detail to give the devil his due. It’s what makes the movie, the fifth chapter in George Miller’s long-running desert opera, so special, and it’s what gives the sprawling, outlandish world of Mad Max a kind of human, tactile plausibility. Every costume, every set, every vehicle, every background character seems to have history beyond what we see on screen.

That was certainly the case with Imperator Furiosa, the one-armed mercenary who was introduced in 2015’s Mad Max: Fury Road. As played by Charlize Theron, she was tough but haunted, with a tortured backstory that was mostly hinted at, and Furiosa is a prequel that ends where Fury Road begins.

Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga may be a clunky title, but at least the “saga” part is accurate. It’s mythic in its scope, a legend made flesh. It begins in the wake of nuclear fallout, and young Furiosa lives in a place of abundance, raised by women. Enter two dueling wannabe dictators: Immortan Joe, who controls the region’s water supply, and Dementus (Chris Hemsworth), a mustache-twirling ammunitions hoarder.

Dementus kills Furiosa’s mother and then takes the little girl as his own. She eventually slips from his grasp, disguising herself as a boy and toiling for years in his army. Now played by Anya Taylor-Joy, adult Furiosa finally attempts her journey home and is waylaid by an epic war of resources between Immortan Joe’s fertile Citadel and the fuel reserves of the Dementus-commandeered Gastown.

Of course, the Mad Max films have always been about car chases, and the best one in Furiosa comes smack-dab in the middle of the film. It’s Miller at his most madcap, and the kind of sequence that has you grinning from ear-to-ear because of its sheer velocity. As Furiosa traverses the undercarriage of a speeding fuel tanker, she’s beset by sticks of dynamite, guys on machines that look like jetpacks with parachutes, and a device known as the "Bommy Knocker."

And yet the film ends not with a chase but with an emotional confrontation, and one last twisted bit of retribution. It takes Miller back to his roots—look past the overkill and this is as straightforward a revenge story as the very first Mad Max, which was made on a shoestring in the late ’70s.

The two central performances are representative of the film’s duality—of explosive insanity and unspoken, well, fury. Taylor-Joy has the wide, expressive eyes of a silent movie star, which come in handy during the long passages where she communicates only through movement and facial expressions. Hemsworth, meanwhile, is having a blast as the dopey but imposing villain whose flair for the theatrical involves standing astride a chariot pulled by motorcycles.

Furiosa doesn’t come with the shock of innovation that Fury Road had, but how could it? That film set a new standard for contemporary action filmmaking. But revisiting Fury Road a few days after seeing Furiosa, I was struck by how seamlessly they fit together and how they each imbue the other with even more meaning. Both movies have vision to spare. It’s overwhelming, really, to be back in a world of such ruthlessly excessive imagination, but it’s also reinvigorating.

For Spokane Public Radio, I'm Nathan Weinbender.


Nathan Weinbender is a film critic and one of the regular co-hosts of Spokane Public Radio’s Movies 101 heard Friday evenings at 6:30 PM here on KPBX.

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