Over the past 14 years, the Fast & Furious franchise has certainly come a long way. Over the course of seven films, the characters went from hijacking trucks in East L.A. to high-tech espionage missions in Abu Dhabi. It's quite obvious that the cast and crew wanted to make Furious 7 the best and biggest film in the franchise. Considering the many obstacles they had to overcome, to say they succeeded in the end would be a gross understatement. Furious 7, simply put, is one of the best popcorn films of all time.
Picking up where the last movie left off, Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham), finds out that Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) and his crew severely crippled his villainous brother. As a result, Shaw makes it his mission to harm Toretto's "family" in any way he can. After killing one of Toretto's close friends, Toretto decides to go after Shaw. Meanwhile, the CIA plans to use Toretto's vendetta against Shaw as leverage to help them stop a dangerous criminal (played by Djimon Hounsou) from threatening national security with a high-powered computer chip.
Some may call this plot a mess, but I felt that a crazy plot like this was suitable for a film that is intentionally over-the-top and silly. When you combine an outlandish plot with a generally light-hearted tone and lovable characters, you get the perfect example of escapist entertainment done right.
Many action films make the mistake of putting bland, stone-faced characters in outlandish set pieces. The result is usually a film that looks good, but isn't worth seeing again. Just like most of its predecessors, Furious 7 avoids this mistake and gives audiences some amusing, badass and heartfelt characters to root for. Whether it's Tyrese Gibson's cowardly-lion-type character or Michelle Rodriguez's mentally-vulnerable but kickass character, fans of the franchise will be more than happy to see their favorite characters return to the big screen.
Even the new characters stand on their own as fine additions to the series. Nathalie Emmanuel and Djimon Hounsou add some flare to the film and Jason Statham has his best role yet, playing a villain that you'll love to hate. In a career of mostly heroic roles, it's actually a nice change of pace to see him play the villain.
Vin Diesel is as excellent as usual, playing Dominic Toretto with a smooth personality that's occasionally pushed over the edge when his family is threatened. Paul Walker, in the scenes shot before his tragic death, shines one last time as Brian O'Conner, an ex-FBI agent with all the right moves. It is quite bittersweet seeing these two characters interact this time around; it is the last time that they will be together, but the actors give the necessary heart and effort to make their characters work.
In regards to Paul Walker, with the exception of a few choice shots and angles, it is almost impossible to tell when he is on screen or when it is his CGI double. Those fearing an awkward uncanny valley situation will be pleased to know that the CGI in this film is first-rate and practically un-riffable. Even when it's obvious which scenes were added to write off Paul Walker's character, the way they wrote him off of the franchise is both respectful and touching. Kudos to Peter Jackson's Weta Workshop for giving Paul Walker a proper farewell.
Now it's time to address the heart of the movie; the main reason why people come in droves to see this: the INCREDIBLE set pieces. I think it's pretty clear to see that the filmmakers put their all into this, and director James Wan does an excellent job calling the shots. The cars are as slick and gorgeous as ever, and seeing them crash through buildings and fall from the sky is sure to please.
There's something about the way the action is shot that really makes it worth watching. Unlike some more subpar action movies, the set pieces are comprehensibly edited and allow the audience to get immersed in what's going on. In an Imax movie like this, immersion is extremely important, and audiences are sure to be thrilled to the edge of their seats.
This movie never falls short on the cheesy thrills. Some intentionally hilarious but nonetheless awesome scenes include driving a car between three skyscrapers, Dwayne Johnson flexing out of an arm cast, dropping cars out of a plane, and Jason Statham putting on his sunglasses as he walks from an explosion. It doesn't get more lovably cheesy than this. This movie is like a giant ice cream sundae: sweet, deliciously thrilling, and perfectly aware of how over-the-top and awesome it is.
The only real drawback I had to this film was that they didn't really get a chance to tie in the third film. Yes, an event from the third film is revealed to have fueled the plot, but it was kind of an odd choice to have Lucas Black show up for a minute before disappearing. I wasn't really a fan of his character in the third movie, so I was hoping they could redeem the character by having him join Toretto's team in this movie. That unfortunately didn't happen, so his cameo felt like a waste.
Overall though, Furious 7 is a triumph in every sense of the word. It's a triumph for the franchise, it's a triumph for action movies, it's a triumph for the cast and crew, and Paul Walker would be proud. Great job guys!