The 400-Word Review - Mad Max: Fury Road
By Sean Collier
May 19, 2015

Just once we'd like a fireball to engulf the protagonist.

Somewhere in the course of George Miller’s magnificent Mad Max: Fury Road, the viewer may realize that they are not watching a typical summer blockbuster. This is not a cross-demographic, merchandise-generating, franchise-building exercise in how to make a uber-commercial product as worthy as possible. Rather, Fury Road is a bona fide work of art. Some artists work in paint, some in sculpture; George Miller works in automobiles and explosions.

The instantly-fascinating sequence of world-building in the film’s first act tells us what we need to know: in this installment of the post-apocalyptic franchise, water is controlled by The Citadel, an efficient slave state overseen by King Immorten Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne, who also played the villain in the original Mad Max). Defiant driver Furiosa (Charlize Theron) is sent with a convoy to trade water for gasoline; when she veers off course for unknown reasons, a psychotic war brigade led by Joe himself tails after her.

Unfortunately for the bad guys, their crew contains slightly-off soldier Nux (Nicholas Hoult), who for vague medical reasons must remain attached to a living source of fresh blood. And that “blood bag” is, of course, Max Rockatansky (Tom Hardy), who has other ideas about how the day is going to go.

Between no-nonsense scenes that explain just enough, the bulk of Fury Road is a series of escalating high-speed battles, each thrilling and beautifully shot by cinematographer John Seale. A series of dirt bike riders arch over a tractor-trailer, lobbing grenades as they fly; a blind psychopath mounts a chariot to fire machine guns into the darkness; suicidal foot soldiers huff chrome paint and hurl their cars into danger in hopes of ascending to Valhalla.

Oh, and the post-apocalyptic equivalent of a drum-and-bugle corps accompanies everything, as a dozen drummers flail at timpanis while a deranged guitarist, bungee-strapped atop a moving truck, plays endless metal riffs on a dual-necked guitar/flamethrower.

It’s awesome.

Admittedly, it can’t be called perfect; very little exists below the surface, and the world-building in the first act is so good that it’s sorely missed in the rest of the film. And an opening sequence falls flat. But there’s so much to praise here — a perfect cast, incredibly imaginative production design and costuming, kinetic direction, brilliant editing that creates a constant, pulsing pace — that to offer much criticism is to steadfastly refuse to get on board. Just see this crazy movie.

My Rating: 9/10

Sean Collier is the Associate Editor of Pittsburgh Magazine and a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association. Read more from Sean at