furious_7-3Year: 2015
Director: James Wan
Writer(s): Chris Morgan
Region of Origin: US
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
Rating: PG-13
35mm, Digital, Color, 137 mins

Synopsis: Deckard Shaw seeks revenge against Dominic Toretto and his family for his comatose brother. (Source)

Wow, I don’t even know where to start with this thing. Furious Seven is a lot of things: a sharply-tuned example of blockbuster escapism, proof that James Wan is a talented director who can juggle both heart and massive spectacle, and a tribute to the late Paul Walker – these films will never be the same without his naturally charming Brian O’Connor. After Walker’s tragic and untimely passing during production, Wan and writer Chris Morgan had the unenviable task of soldering on, finding a way to appease expectations from a stunned studio and hungry fans, all while making sure that their fallen friend would get his due. Rest assured though, Wan and Morgan didn’t just deliver on all of these enormous duties, but broke through insurmountable odds to deliver something truly special. Mortality weighs heavy both in viewers minds’ and the film’s story, but thanks to some smart storytelling and sincere metatextual touches which slightly break the fourth wall, there’s a kind of synergy here that mashes fictional narrative into real life heroism – some will show up for the absurd action, but we’ll all be there for the heartfelt emotion.

After slowly morphing from street racing meatheads to globe-trotting, lovable superheroes, this installment finds Dom, Brian and our crew picking up from their previous adventure. Dom and Letty are dealing with the fall out of her amnesia, Brian loves being a father, but is struggling to adjust to the slower pace of home-life and now there’s a new threat. As it turns out, their last enemy Owen Shaw had a big bad brother, a one man army named Deckard Shaw. With his brother comatose in a hospital, Shaw vows to bring down the crew who took down Owen. After targeting and nearly killing some of Dom’s crew, a solution arises. A super secret black ops team led by the mysterious Frank Petty needs a powerful device named the God’s Eye, a program that can find anyone, anywhere in the world in the blink of an eye. If Dom and team can secure it, Petty will allow them to use it to find Shaw and take him down for good. Stakes are high, and tensions will rise, but you don’t mess with Dom and family. Not ever.

It’s easy to see that the plot is just a flimsy excuse to take our crew from one point of the world to another, but it works under Wan’s supervision, using each absurd action set piece to test the bonds of our characters and bring them closer together. Wan is a perfect fit for a franchise built on progressive insanity – he knows its limits and more importantly its strengths (endearing characters and chaotic action), leading to a film without any half measures. At any given time, you can expect the room that people are standing in to be wrecked by the time they leave it, if a car crashes into a building, it’s going to crash into statues of Terracotta Warriors and the villain is going to be a one man wrecking crew that more or less, doesn’t need anyone to help him take down entire armies by himself. A few of the most notable scenes include cars leaping from one Dubai skyscraper to another, a high stakes game of hot potato and an insane mountain top rescue involving skydiving cars with a mixture of brutal martial arts, car acrobatics and excellent character beats. The latter is easily worth a $15 price of admission on its own, and isn’t just one of the best sequences of the series or this year, but perhaps ever; trust me, we’ll be talking about this one for years to come. With such a great mix of character and nonstop action, there’s much more weight to the flying bullets and explosions, which are breathlessly choreographed and staged.

furious_7-2Ever since the films were retooled a few installments ago to be all about the familial bonds between our heroes, we’ve really grown to love the ensemble of actors who each bring their own flavor to the large cast – this chapter is no different, further developing each character and adding really smart flourishes to each one and their interpersonal relationships. Vin Diesel holds his place as the brawny, defacto leader, but I was really surprised by the attention that Michelle Rodriguez’s Letty and The Rock’s Hobbs got – without spoiling anything, prepare to love them even more. Ludacris’ Tej and Tyrese’s Roman are again used to comic perfection, adding levity to the film’s intensity. Oh, and I expect Kurt Russell’s black ops operative Frank to get more screen time in the future because he was pretty amazing in this. But of course, with Walker’s O’Connor needing a mandatory exit, seeds from previous films are expanded upon to make sure he gets a send off that not only pays off the actor’s charming off-screen persona, but a story that feels honest to his character. Brothers Cody and Caleb where brought in to complete Walker’s unfinished role, and though you can sometimes see through the digital trickery, the thematic and emotional pay off is so on point, it’s never distracting. For a series all about family, this has been handled in the best way possible, and it’s hard to not be genuinely affected.

Furious Seven’s end result is a true love letter to the fans and the late Walker. Though Wan’s directorial work is strong enough to stand on its own, the latter’s passing will always overshadow the film – if anything though, its a reminder of how powerful these kinds of films can be. Sure, this franchise is pitch perfect escapism, but the fictional heroism involved touches us in ways that spill over into reality in more ways than one. Walker’s name has never been bandied about during Oscar season, but this film shows that it never needed to be – he’d already connected with so many of us on a level that really mattered, touching lives around the world that he’d never met. That’s a true testament to the power of pop filmmaking, and to echo something a character in the film says, “we have eternity in this moment.”