Somehow this will end with me mad at Justin Bieber.
Let me cut to the chase, Furious 7 is a really good movie. In the four prior installments, outgoing director Justin Lin had expertly churned out enjoyable, box office hits, driven [sic] by sleek supercharged cars and the biggest stunts a nine-figure budget could afford; a simple formula that made Universal Pictures two billion dollars. And as a hazard, a big screen equivalent of penny dreadful literature.
Still, I was expecting another one straight from the books on this version by James Wan. To be honest, I was on the day, craving it. To give context, I’d just finished watching HBO’s The Jinx (with the most gut-wrenching ending you’ll ever get in a non-fiction) and another mindless road rage installment of Fast & Furious would be great catharsis.
But the age old formula has changed in this one. Whether by design (onscreen murder of crew member, Han) or fate (real life death of original cast member, Paul Walker), this is the first movie in the series with real depth. Not just in its story arc but also emotionally. Don’t get me wrong, the traditional heavy hitting, hilarious banter and ceremonial car wrecking is still available. In fact, wilder, funnier and more crazily ambitious. The only difference is that once the credits roll on this one, you’ll truly care for Toretto’s crew and contemplate what the future holds for them.
The cast (or family, if you let them tell it) needs no introduction. They all reprise their roles with Paul Walker’s unshot scenes completed using CGI and a little help from his two brothers Caleb and Cody. This time they are joined by a mean mugging Jason Statham, Djimon Hounsou as the most ubiquitous terrorist ever, Nathalie Emmanuel (Game of Thrones) who officially steals the bikini body trophy from Die Another Day Bond girl Halle Berry, and cameos from a host of other familiar faces.
The story rooted on the universal themes of love and revenge plays out on a global scale in the form of terrorism and Orwellian surveillance. Unlike 1984 though, the highly valuable technology (God’s Eye) is not in the hands of Big Brother but dangerous vigilantes. Visually, the movie is majestic, specifically scenes in a mountainous Azerbaijan highway and Abu Dhabi’s Etihad Towers that will have you gasping for air.
However, what separates Furious 7 from the others is how the loud moments have been perfectly weighted with intimate ones. And with Paul Walker’s shadow hanging over the film, what previously seemed like typical Furiouspeak (“ride or die”, “no friends just family”, “promise you’ll come home”, “one last job”) now takes on a honest, more solemn meaning. Especially surreal is a phone conversation between Walker’s character Brian O’Conner and wife Mia (Jordana Brewster).
The final scene takes the cake for me. The scene is poignant and I’m sure so natural to the cast it might as well have been unscripted. It will leave even the manliest Fast & Furious fan balancing a few tears. I can see why Vin Diesel (who also has producer credits) is already crying Oscars despite it being a long shot… a very, very long shot. The audiences and critics may forgive the volatile swings in the film’s overall mood but I doubt the nitpicking Academy would.
Although Furious 7 ends on an otherwise optimistic tone, one can’t help but wonder whether the writing is on the wall for this franchise. Which brings me to Bieber.
I hoped his Comedy Central roast, which I later watched, had helped me get over the morbid and taciturn mood that the previously mentioned HBO miniseries The Jinx had put me in; and now surprisingly compounded by Furious 7. Get this; Biebs finishes the comedy special by giving the most heartfelt speech to ever come from a teenage-heartthrob-turned- spoilt-brat!
My blues continue.
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