(C) Universal Pictures

Most of the time, the process of getting a script made into a film is reasonably straightforward. You get the script written, get the film greenlit, film, edit, and release. That process was a lot more difficult for Fast and Furious 7, or just Furious 7 as it’s known in the US. After the November 2013 death of star Paul Walker, the film was put on hiatus partway during filming, with some thinking the film would be scrapped entirely and done from scratch. Luckily, that’s not the case, because Furious 7 is not only a great action movie, but also a touching tribute to one of the genre’s biggest stars.

Furious 7 once again re-unites the all-star cast led by Dom Toretto (Vin Diesel) and Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) as an old threat comes back to haunt them. The brother of Fast 6‘s villain, Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham) is out for revenge against those who killed his sibling, and with help from Brian O’Conner (Paul Walker), Letty (Michelle Rodriguez), Roman (Tyrese Gibson) and Tej (Ludacris), they must bring down Shaw and save the world once more.

Plot-wise, my expectations for Furious 7 were particularly low, but I was pleasantly surprised by the amount given. I’ve only seen and of this franchise, so the first twenty or thirty minutes in particular are reasonably confusing and jarring if you’re new to the series. This mainly revolves around Letty’s memory loss, something touched upon but never fully explained in the 2013 entry to this series, but once the film’s main plot gets going there aren’t any issues. On the note of the plot, it certainly does take its time to get started: the extended edition I saw clocks in at around 141 minutes, and the actual main plot thread is introduced surprisingly  into the film. I’m not complaining at all about this because the racing scene the film opens with is absolutely sublime, but, in a genre that is bloated with by-the-books entries, even the slightest nuances are warmly welcomed. As you may expect, the plot of Furious 7 is a bonkers sequence of high-octane action sequences pulled together by the main villain. Even though the action here is at times the best I have seen from this series, with cars skydiving and 360 degrees action shots, I seemed to find time and time again that it was the quieter moments, just where characters were talking or the group were bantering with each other, that the film soared the highest. This is most prevalent during the film’s last twenty minutes or so, where the sentimentality is ramped up to the same degree the action was for the remainder and your heartstrings are well and truly tugged. I couldn’t write this review without mentioning the tribute to Paul Walker, and it really is incredibly powerful and moving, easily able to make any man cry. It is so touching and is easily the film’s best moment: one of those rare moments where a film transcends its genre and becomes something wholly more powerful and beautiful.

Action is synonymous with the Fast and Furious franchise, and luckily the seventh entry is no different. It gets even more bonkers and even more thrilling, with some of the best stunts I’ve ever seen, such as cars jumping across skyscrapers in Dubai to the destruction of a hospital in one of the greatest single-take openings I’ve seen in recent years. The stunt work is truly fantastic, from the fist-fights to the racing, all of which feels real and absolutely thrilling. On the topic of the fist fights, they were really great here, with the fantastic sound editing and stuntwork meaning you could truly feel every punch (or incidentally every hit with a steel pole).

When you think of modern-day ensemble casts, a few names pop up: The AvengersOcean’s ElevenX-Men – but rarely does Fast and Furious pop up. It really should. Not one member of the main cast, consisting of about 9 worldwide stars, lets any of the others down, and the chemistry between them is palpable: they feel so natural with each other that it’s hard to believe that they haven’t known each other all their lives, let alone the 14 years since the first film’s release. Particular standouts include the relationship between Tyrese Gibson’s Roman and Ludacris’ Tej, who have astounding chemistry and great back-and-forth dialogue. Also great is Paul Walker, who has the perfect balance between action and comedy, and Kurt Russell, who is surprisingly great in a role he easily could’ve phoned in for a good paycheck. Just one issue: Iggy Azalea. Please, no Iggy Azalea.

On a technical level, Furious 7 is pretty darn great. I’ve already gone into depth about the action, but that’s not all, with some great CGI – which does admittedly falter at times – a brilliant, upbeat R&B soundtrack, and superb editing. The races are handled so well by director James Wan in his first non-horror film, and his direction is really confident and promising. There are some stunning establishing shots that helps make the cinematography really great at times, also accentuated by some lovely lighting and great colours. The practical effects are really great too, particularly the aforementioned races and scenes involving cars in general, which all look fantastic.

Furious 7 was the first film of 2015 to gross over $1 billion, and it is wholly deserving of such an accolade in such a crowded and important year for film. Aside from some dodgy CGI, product placement and iffy cameos, it manage to thrill at one minute with its high-octane action and punchy dialogue, but soar even more at the next when it slows down and breathes, providing some really great character moments. Its last 20 minutes are hugely touching and moving, with a beautiful send-off for a life cut tragically too short. Furious 7 is easily one of the greatest films of the year, and deserves all the praise and success it gets.

★★★★½

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