This seems to be the movie season for mad, unstoppable villains. One week after watching the Avengers battle Ultron, I felt a sense of déjà vu watching our favorite family of auto-powered outlaws duking it out with another seemingly indestructible foe, ex-special forces assassin Deckard Shaw in Furious 7.
In a story that continues from the events of Fast and Furious 6, we swap one Asian-born born director (Taiwanese-born Justin Lin, who directed the last 4 movies) for another (Malaysian-born James Wan). But the man connecting the dots behind the scenes continues to be writer Chris Morgan, who has written the screenplay for entries #3-7.
The subtext of Morgan’s 140 minute story is that family is all-important; and of course, audiences know this is the last film for one beloved family member – Paul Walker having been tragically killed (in a car crash) midway through the production. It’s not just the good guys who draw their strength from family; the bad guy Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham) is also motivated entirely by blood ties – he is determined to wipe out the team that left his brother Owen comatose at the end of the last film. The family theme also shows up in the life of a key supporting character, agent Luke Hobbs (Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson), who is shown with a young daughter and an evolving relationship with fellow agent Elena Neves (played by Spanish actress Elsa Pataky, who I just discovered is the wife of Thor actor Chris Hemsworth). Non-family relationships are equally strong and there are brief scenes featuring Lucas Black’s and Sung Kang’s characters who we first met in The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift (2006). Everyone has got everyone’s back in this closely knit world.
The movie starts with a hard-hitting introduction to Deckard Shaw and in five minutes we know that our fast friends are in for a rough ride. We then have to sit through a fairly long build-up during which my anticipation nearly turned to impatience. But once the action gets going, it’s a non-stop thrill ride right till the end. We all know from the trailers that the highlight of the movie is an air-drop of cars from plane onto a lonely winding highway in the middle of a forest. The stunt is every bit as audacious as the trailer indicates and I found myself shaking my head in disbelief and wonder as the scene unfolded. The extended action sequence introduces us to 2 new characters. One is British super-hacker Ramsey (played by Nathalie Emmanuel from Game of Thrones) who seems to have joined the ‘family’ by the end of the movie; the other is terrorist henchman Kiet, played by Thai martial arts phenomenon Tony Jaa, making his Hollywood debut.
The one thing that becomes clear midway through the film is that cars can indeed fly, at least for a short while! As if the air-drop scene wasn’t enough, we soon find ourselves in Abu Dhabi where we see another breathtaking stunt featuring a Lykan Hypersport (the first supercar to be made in the Middle East; only 7 have been built, each priced at $3.4 million) making a leap of faith between 2 buildings in the Etihad Towers complex.
The camaraderie, humour and strong bonds within Dominic Toretto’s (Vin Diesel) ‘family’ humanize this hi-tech film where the primary drawing power is still the cars and the stunts – 340 cars were used in the making of the film, out of which 230 were trashed! But the human characters all survive unscathed (on-screen) and the sequence at the end is a fitting tribute to this long-lasting (and surprisingly emotional) journey which started in June 2001. It’s not ended yet; Diesel recently announced Furious 8 for April 2017.