Movie Review On Mad Max
Mad Max was released in 1979 and directed by George Miller. It is considered a modern day classic and for reinvigorating the action genre. In essence, it established a genre of its own. It takes a simple story outline and breaks it down into a narrative told over a course of 90 minutes. The result is a smashed up splendor of human beings, car chases, crashes, violence and revenge. While there are characters in the film, any form of character development is boiled down into the narrative. Most films would take time to explore their lead characters as well as the antagonist. This film uses imagery, symbolism and metaphor to enhance the drama and characters within the film. In this film, there is an actually a lack of dialogue and more action than seen before.
Take the opening scene of the film. There is barely any dialogue but rather a 12 minute chase sequence that is wondrous in its detail and precision. It is sheer spectacle. The opening shot of the film fades on a building which represents the halls of justice. The camera angle is from street level slightly tilted up. It is shown with a thunderous musical score. This fades into a desolate road with telephone poles on the side. The words, “A Few Years from Now” appear on the screen. It fades into a skull and crossbones image in the middle of the road. It fades out and into a sign that reads “Anarchie Road 3 km.” The camera pans to the left to reveal a yellow, blue and red police cruiser parked on the side of the road. It’s interesting to note the road sign is actually a play on words hinting at the concept of Anarchy. With this simple shot, the film has already set the theme and what is to follow for the rest of the film. The shot could also hint at the tussle between order and chaos.
In another shot that again portrays the events that are to follow is when the camera sweeps across another sign. The sign reads, “Highway 9 Sector 26, High Fatality Road – Deaths This Year: 57, Monitored By Main Force Patrol.” The letter O is crossed out and replaced by an A spelling farce. This again represents another theme the film is trying to explore is that in this world, law enforcement is a joke. It also hints that they are no different than the criminals that they try to put behind bars. The camera then cuts and pans to another cruiser under repair by another officer, Max (Mel Gibson). This is the protagonist of the film and like the setting; he is shrouded in mystery and ambiguity. The director makes it a point to have close up shots of him without reveling his face to heighten the anticipation from the audience. When Max chases the perpetrators in the car which results in their deaths in the climax of the scene, he emerges from his vehicle and removes his sunglasses in a medium close up shot. Like the film, he automatically turns in a mythical figure dressed in all black.
The setting of the film is considered to be post apocalyptic. But this is never explicitly stated. It’s only in the opening scene that the audience gains an understanding of the situation. As stated earlier, character is woven into the narrative of the film. Take the title character of Max. After the opening sequence, the film cuts to his home life. He is happily married with a child. He leads a fairly normal life but is torn by his commitment to the law. As society is breaking down, it makes the tension between both sides even more apparent. Max is a very complex character and this is made even more apparent towards the end of the film right after his wife and child have been run by Toecutter (Hugh Keays-Byrne) and his gang. The scene right after takes place in the hospital. Max’s wife suffers from various internal injuries and their son has been killed. As the doctors talk amongst themselves, the camera pan to the left as Max is listening, with heartbreak in his eyes. The scene then cuts to Max overlooking the ocean as Max grieves for his wife and child. He is gripping a Halloween mask tightly which relates to an earlier happier scene with his wife and child. Max’s eyes turn to rage as he heads back to the house to get his gear and exact revenge. There is little to no dialogue but rather expressions of anger and vengeance.
The film has always been about Max. At the beginning of the film, he was a happy man torn between his family and his harsh job. But when his family is taken away from him, he turns into a weapon of violence. He turns ‘mad.’ This is made clearer in the closing shot of the film. As Max has brutally dispatched the remaining gang member in a gruesome fashion, he walks to his car and drives way. The camera cuts between the endless road and Max’s bleak face. It hints that his fate has been sealed and will continue his journey of vengeance despite having already fulfilled it.