One Last Ride: Furious 7 (2015)
Furious 7 pulls off the impossible. After the tragic passing of Paul Walker in the middle of shooting, the film managed to find a fitting and heartfelt end to his character, while also being one of the most fun, action-packed blockbusters in recent history.
Director James Wan steps in for Furious 7 after Justin Lin’s four-movie reign over the Fast franchise. Fast & Furious 6 was a fitting end to Lin’s run, with the movie standing as arguably the franchise’s peak. Fast 6 upped the action and character dynamics while also providing an end to one of our most beloved characters—in a timeline head-trip, the final moments of 6 cut to the end of Tokyo Drift and the car crash that ended Han’s life. The huge twist was that it wasn’t just some random nobody that killed Han, it was Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham), the brother of Fast 6’s villain Owen Shaw (Luke Evans), looking for revenge. It was a hell of a way of Lin to end his run, and an amazing set-up for Furious 7.
Jason Statham fits right into the Fast universe. Sure, his character doesn’t do much other than show up at the right moments in an attempt to kick Dom’s ass, but in this movie, that’s all you need. Each confrontation Shaw has with Dom grows increasingly more absurd, leading up to their final fight where Dom take shots to the head that would kill a normal human being. This is a Fast movie, so Shaw and Dom battle on superhero levels and we, the audience, don’t bat an eye. If you’re not on board with the series by now, then you’re better off sticking with more grounded action movies. There’s that point in Fast 6 where Dom leaps through the air, catches and saves Letty (Michelle Rodriguez), and both land on top of car at about 50 mph. If you’re not suspending your disbelief at that point, then you’re not going to buy Dom stomping his foot down and destroying the ground beneath him, bringing down a parking garage in Furious 7.
While Dom’s continues to level up, the action sequences themselves reach new mind-boggling heights. How do you top the safe-dragging chase in Fast Five? Or the freeway tank set-piece in 6? Well, the answer here is tossing cars out of planes and adding a military grade drone to the mix.
The first big chase begins with our team in cars, thousands of feet in the air, as they airdrop down to take on an armored motorcade. The film recognizes just how insane this is by having Roman (Tyrese) chicken out and not make the jump out of the plane. As the rest of the team is hurtling, in their cars, down to Earth, Roman says he'll stay put. Tej (Ludacris) takes it upon himself to deploy an injector parachute hooked up to Roman’s car and with that Roman makes the unwilling dive, screaming. Here, Roman is the audience surrogate with the film essentially saying, “This is damn silly. Please come with us.”
After that, Dom and Brian drive a car through three buildings, hundreds of stories high, in Abu Dhabi. Then, the grand finale finds the team back home in Los Angeles, trying to escape from a heavy duty aerial drone. In each of these instances, it's usually Roman or someone else on the team pointing out the blatant ridiculousness of each scenario. The Fast films never take themselves too serious; ever since Fast Five, the films have been an action jungle gym for our characters, who always come first.
Like each and every Fast film, Furious 7 is all about family. When one of their own, Han, is killed and the family is threatened, Dom flies to Tokyo to get answers. There he meets with Sean (Lucas Black), who became close friends to Han. Furious 7 circles back to Tokyo Drift, with Han as the thread. You'll see Han’s little speech in Tokyo Drift, about keeping good people around you, in a new light after knowing what he went through with Dom, the crew, and Gisele (Gal Gadot). Dom becomes a man determined, driven by his love for his friends—which is kind of a crazy refreshing concept for a multi-million-dollar blockbuster franchise.
Sure, the world is in jeopardy; there's a plot revolving a MacGuffin called The God’s Eye, which can find any person on Earth using...technology, but that takes a backseat to the interpersonal drama. Dom's team gets bigger, with Ramsey (Nathalie Emmanuel) and big government ally Mr. Nobody (kick-ass Kurt Russell), and he has more villains to deal with, Mose (Dijimon Hounsou) and Keit (hell yeah, Tony Jaa). But it all boils down to Dom and his relationship with Letty, who is slowly overcoming her amnesia (long story), and Brian, who's dealing with being a father and the want of being in the action.
Paul Walker passed away halfway through Furious 7's production, having shot a lot of the action scenes in the film but not many of the crucial drama moments. The story was reshaped as a result, and with the help of Walker's two brother acting as stand-ins and CGI, Furious 7 packed a huge emotional punch. Before the film's touching end, there is a moment where Dom clings to life, the team surrounding his body in tears. Brian looks on, which adds a unique layer; we're grieving for the presumed death of Dom we see the final footage of an actor who we all miss. Of course, Dom survives, and the family is happy once again. The final moments present a further meditation on life and death (yeah, I know) as we see Brian deciding to be a family man over living the dangerous, bullet-filled life. Many were worried that the character of Brian would be killed off, but Furious 7 instead respects Walker's memory by having his character drive into the sunset as moments of Brian in previous Fast movies play on screen. All of this is set to Wiz Khalifa's "See You Again" and, damn it, if you're not at least getting choked up by the time the credits roll then I don't know what's wrong with you. For the seventh entry in a franchise that started with tuna sandwiches and stolen VCRs, it's a flat-out miracle just how much fun, action-packed, and, most importantly, sincere this movie is.