"This time it ain't just about being fast.”
James Wan, who is well known for directing horror films (The Conjuring and Saw), took over the seventh film in this franchise replacing Justin Lin who had been sitting on the director’s chair since the third installment. What I found most interesting about this franchise is that it didn’t seem like it was going anywhere after its solid debut in 2001 since the first couple of sequels focused on different characters and storylines. Even when they got the entire cast back together in 2009 for the fourth film I didn’t feel like it was anything special. I’d always mildly enjoyed the films, but it wasn’t until Fast Five that I was really engaged with the series. Justin Lin may have not impressed me before, but when that film came out he decided to have fun with the overblown action scenes and audiences embraced it completely. We had the team reuniting together being chased by tanks and planes and pulling off nearly mission impossible tasks. My greatest concern for this film was that Wan wouldn’t follow that basic formula that had elevated the franchise in the first place. But in an early scene in the film those fears were soon gone when Wan practically gives the audience a wink by having Brian (Walker) telling his son that “cars don’t fly” when he playfully throws a small toy car through the window. We were about to find out that that claim wasn’t necessarily true because throughout this film we actually see several cars fly during the spectacular action scenes.
By the end of Furious Six the franchise was tied perfectly together by uniting the events that took place in Tokyo during the third film with the present. In the fifth and sixth installments Toretto (Vin Diesel), Brian (Paul Walker), Tej (Ludacirs), and Roman (Tyrese Gibson) had finally found financial stability and cleaned their names to return home. The character of Agent Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) had helped reinvigorate the franchise and Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) was brought back from the dead (well actually she never really died, but fans of the franchise know what I mean). Mia (Jordan Brewster) and Brian were enjoying their newfound family life, but as we found out in the end of the sixth film, Owen’s brother Deckard (Jason Statham) was set on avenging him. Their seemingly peaceful life is interrupted as the team begins to be hunted down by this dangerous British criminal. Loretto is offered the opportunity to flip the papers on Deckard from being hunted to becoming the hunters when a secret government official known as Mr. Nobody (Kurt Russell) offers him a deal. A Somalian mercenary (Djimon Hounsou) has kidnapped a hacker known as Ramsey (Nathalie Emmanuel) who has developed a computer program known as God’s Eye that basically allows you to find anyone across the globe in a matter of seconds. If Toretto’s team can rescue Ramsey and retrieve God’s Eye he will let them use it to track down Deckard and catch him off guard. And so the adventure across the globe begins with flying cars, helicopters and droids exploding across the mountains of the Middle East, the elegant buildings in Abu Dhabi, and the city of Los Angeles.
Gisele and Han were part of the reason why I enjoyed the previous films so much so I was worried that their absence in this film would hurt the movie, but the addition of Jason Statham as the main villain of the film elevated this to a higher level. There are great fight scenes between him and Dwayne Johnson and then with Vin Diesel that were incredibly entertaining. These are probably the best action stars of our generation and when the fighting choreography is filmed correctly you can’t go wrong with these guys. There are also some fantastic action scenes involving fast car chases across a gorgeous mountain that ends in a Jurassic Park like cliffhanger. The action scenes are overblown, but that is what makes them so entertaining once you learn to accept the absurdity of it all and simply enjoy the ride. Over-the-top action scenes is what elevated this franchise in the first place and Furious 7 continues to play with that same premise taking advantage of Wan’s knowledgable work behind the camera and his use of different camera angles which makes the film look all the more entertaining.
The greatest success of Furious 7 is being able to blend the incredibly fun action scenes with the dramatic elements involving the chemistry between the characters. We’ve grown to love these characters and each new addition always seems to work. Furious 7 takes some common themes from films like Mission Impossible or Ocean’s Eleven and applies them really well here. Tyrese Gibson plays a similar character to the one Matt Damon played in Ocean’s where he wants to prove his leadership qualities to the rest of the crew. There are elements recycled from other action films, but thanks to the cast it works extremely well in this franchise. And then you have the emotional aspect of this film surrounding Paul Walker’s untimely death. You can’t help but feel emotionally engaged towards his character knowing that the actor has recently passed away. There are several scenes of his face where the CGI seems evident, but the voice work was perfectly executed. The CGI never distracted me however, and I’m glad they decided to continue with the production of the film. The last five minutes are emotionally engaging and without spoiling the film all I can say is that the crew did him justice with a beautiful tribute. Furious 7 continues to build on an already engrossing franchise and it might just be my second favorite after Fast Five.