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Accuracy • Independence • Integrity

November 22, 2017   |   Ithaca, NY

Life & Culture

Review: ‘Furious 7’ races onward and upward despite loss of actor

"Furious 7"

Directed by James Wan

Seemingly out of nowhere, a crew of individuals and their sports cars are dropped from a plane at 10,000 feet in the air. They hurtle through the sky, steering calmly toward the ground and what seems to be certain doom. Fortunately for them, they have been practicing high-octane stunts for the better part of six movies and the stunts have been getting progressively more intense.

“Furious 7,” the seventh installment in the “Fast & Furious” franchise, follows the Toretto clan, a group of close-knit friends, including Dom Toretto (Vin Diesel), Brian O’Connor (Paul Walker), Mia Toretto (Jordana Brewster), Letty (Michelle Rodriguez), Roman Pearce (Tyrese Gibson) and Tej (Chris “Ludacris” Bridges), as its latest challenge from a familiar enemy begins. This film focuses on the fight to keep the group safe so that all its members can return to a life of normalcy in their home of Los Angeles: two things they had finally attained after six previous movies.

In the previous film, “Fast & Furious 6,” the team was nearly destroyed by Owen Shaw (Luke Evans), a former British Special Services soldier, and his followers. In the end, however, the clan successfully brought Shaw and his cohorts down. But before long, Shaw’s brother, Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham), comes to seek vengeance on behalf of his brother. Deckard is revealed to be a serious villain, fighting like a mad robot and quickly becoming the central antagonist of “Furious 7.” Even with this new challenge facing them, the Toretto clan bands together once again as a family unit to defeat the enemy.

The theme of family is prevalent throughout the film and is even heightened by the loss of Walker in November 2013. The news of his passing left his fans, colleagues, friends and family feeling empty and uncertain of the future. With this news, the cast members faced a serious challenge to find a way to continue on without their beloved friend. Following Walker’s death, his brothers, Caleb and Cody Walker, were sought out to serve as stand-ins for the remaining scenes he wasn’t able to complete. In some scenes, it is evident that the faces of the duo were digitally combined using computer-generated imaging to try to create an authentic image of Walker himself, which detracts from the general quality of the film, but — considering the extreme circumstances — can be forgiven. Additionally, fans and general audience members will be in for a treat at the end of the film, at which time there is a special memorial tribute to Walker. The tribute is touching, beautiful and fitting to the lively spirit of the late actor.

“Furious 7” has other strengths that even those who do not know the context will appreciate. Many films of this genre succumb to placing a heavy reliance on special effects and other enhancers. While this film employs those techniques dramatically, it doesn’t solely rely on them. This film taps into genres, such as comedy and action, to further strengthen its overall appeal. Another strength is an interesting subplot where a new computer-software program known as “God’s Eye” can track people around the world through the use of their digital devices, such as cellphones and other gadgets. This seems especially relevant considering many recent events that have exposed the levels to which people are being constantly monitored through the cameras of their computers and cellphones.

The fact that this is the seventh movie in the franchise serves as a true testament as to how dedicated the fans truly are. As these films evolved over the past decade, audience members have grown and have evolved with the characters. For this reason, they care about the storyline, and they want the characters to be treated fairly and respectfully. In this respect, “Furious 7” definitely delivers. Both the cast and the fans have clearly become a dedicated unit over the 14 years since the very first episode, “The Fast and the Furious,” in 2001. As Dom says in “Furious 7,” “I have no friends, I just have family.”

Every audience member will be able to take something away from this film, from the humorous scenes to the romantic moments to scenes fueled by intense action. Fans will especially appreciate the direction in which the production team chose to take the series in the aftermath of Walker’s death, and “Furious 7” is certainly a fitting testament to his memory.