Fast & Furious 7 is a ridiculous film continuing the habit of ignoring real physics in favour of entertainment. There are cars dropping on simple parachutes from transport planes to land perfectly on a road surrounded by trees, a hypercar ‘flying’ between the Etihad Towers in Abu Dhabi (perhaps powered by hot air), and retired FBI agent Brian O’Conner (mostly played by the late Paul Walker – I’ll come to this later) running up a falling coach which in true Italian Job style has ended up hanging off a cliff. But that’s not all, Dwayne Johnson in a reprise of his role as Hobbs manages to take down a drone aircraft by perfectly timing a crash with an ambulance despite the fact the drone was in a tunnel and couldn’t be seen (a la Die Hard number whatever) and Dom has obviously been watching the same film as he tries to take out a helicopter with that bloody muscle car he loves so much and has had more reincarnations that Bond’s blessed Aston Martin DB5.
Was I bothered by all this after I had parted with the princely sum of £9.40 as part of Odeon’s fanaticism about charging more for the big films (they provided me with a discount voucher, but pointed out I couldn’t use it for Age of Ultron, cheers dudes!)?
The easy answer is ‘no’. Because I knew what I was letting myself in for – I’ve seen the other six and I’d have to be a cretin to expect some kind of Dr Zhivago remake. I was expecting just what I got and while the film didn’t deliver anything more than the previous iterations it seemed vitally important to see Paul Walker’s final performance as Brian on the big screen, having not seen any of the previous films at the cinema.
The story follows on from both Furious 6 and the aberrational third film Tokyo Drift in that Han has been bumped off by the brother of Owen Shaw the bad guy from the sixth film. Deckard Shaw, played by Jason Statham, is hell bent on wiping out the crew that caused the hospitalisation of his bro, but apart from killing of Han (something that had to happen to get the non-Vin episode shoe horned comfortably into the Furious saga) he doesn’t do a particularly good job despite teaming up with bad guy Jakande in a ‘the enemy of my enemy is my friend’ stylee.
Sean Boswell, played by Lucas Black, gets a quick cameo and gives Dom a cross necklace that Dom had originally given to amnesiac Letty and which finally helps her remember her love for Groot. The McGuffin in the film is God’s Eye which much like the system Batman conjures up in Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy uses all the cameras and audio systems in the world to provide an almost perfect surveillance and tracking system. It is God’s Eye that Jakande is after and that Dom’s team is recruited to track down (by finding hacker Ramsey who predictably turns out to be a hot babe) by ‘Mr. Nobody’ excellently played by Kurt Russel. Russell’s character heads a covert ops team who are quite useless in comparison to Dom’s crew of misfits and a freshly out of hospital Hobb’s who provides the cavalry towards the end of the film by taking out the drone. In fact the screenwriters are quite open about this machination and actually have Letty (I think) ask Hobb’s if he is bringing the cavalry to which Hobb’s replies ‘(lady?) I am the cavalry,’ – Johnson seems to get all the best lines in the film.
As usual the theme of family is played upon (we even meet Hobbs’s young daughter) and given the demise of Walker during the filming the reworking of the film places even more emphasis on this as Brian retires to help Mia raise his young son and the one she has on the way. There is quite a poignant scene, when the dust has all settled and Shaw is safely behind bars, in which the crew watch Brian play with his family on the beach and Dom talks about family and Brian no longer being part of the crew. The lines obviously have a double meaning and there’s a montage of clips of Paul Walker.
I would’ve been happy and a little sad if that was the end of the film, but there’s more. Dom drives off (oddly leaving Letty behind on the beach) to be caught up by Brian asking why he left without saying goodbye. Brian is driving a white racing car and they have a bit of a race and then Brian takes a turning and drives off ‘into the sunset’. While I didn’t cry in the cinema I am crying a bit now as I type this. It was obviously something Vin Diesel wanted to do in the film to say goodbye to his friend who went too soon and as a fan of the franchise I think it was fitting and not too incongruous an ending.
Brian being retired instead of killed seems like the best way of letting the franchise continue, but I’m not so sure Vin Diesel will really want to make any more Furious films without his pal around.
So how did they fix the film given that Walker died, production was temporarily halted and there was a big rewrite? Well, it’s not like it’s not been done before; think of The Crow, or Gladiator, that Flake advert, or the scenes inserted into Bladerunner the final cut. The studio hired a few body doubles and Walker’s brothers and then did some clever CGI fiddling courtesy of Weta Digital (those geeky Lord of the Rings guys) and to be honest apart from the very last bit in the white car (which I thought had been lifted from the first film, but obviously couldn’t have been because of his change in haircut) I really didn’t notice or find myself thinking ‘how did they do that’. It’s very well done. Not as good as having him alive and well of course. RIP Paul Walker.