James Wan’s career is one of the American dream. Born in Malaysia, Wan met Leigh Whannel at film school in Australia. Together, they wrote Saw (2004), which Wan directed. The film was made for just over a million dollars and was set to be released straight-to-DVD, but after strong festival buzz it got a theatrical release and made over $100 million worldwide. The Saw franchise went on to make 6 more movies and gross over $850 million, but Wan left the Saw world after the first film. He went on to collaborate with Whannel again and make the Insidious franchise, and directed 2013’s horror hit The Conjuring. Known for directing low-budget horror films, Wan doesn’t seem like the obvious choice to direct a 200 million dollar action film, but he was given the reigns after Justin Lin (who directed the previous four installments) decided not to return for Furious 7.
Does anyone really take the Fast & Furious franchise seriously? These movies are essentially just machismo fantasy power trips. But that’s exactly what these movies are trying to be. Furious 7 does what it sets out to accomplish, and does it with extreme proficiency. In my opinion, the intention of the movie is one of the most vital things to consider when discussing the quality of the film. Even though the movie isn’t The Godfather, it doesn’t set out to be The Godfather. Furious 7 is similar to The Godfather in that family is an important theme, but they are two different movies, both near the top of the class in relation to other movies that set out with a similar intention.
In 20 years, Furious 7 may be dissected and discussed in film class to analyze the pacing and editing of the final product. While plot in this film is more of a catalyst for the action (rather than the driving force of the film), the story is tight and very well managed. The plot takes us to various exotic locations, but at each place we are introduced to new ideas and characters while still feeling tension from the main conflict. These news ideas get reincorporated later in the film and give the ending much more depth. The final action sequence is especially well edited, as the large number of fights and chases going on at the same time are edited seamlessly together so as to keep the movie’s anxiety level high and the excitement level higher. Just as one fight scene starts to become monotonous, you are taken to another conflict that is going on at the same time, so that you’re always engaged. Often times in big action films, there can only be so many explosions before things start to feel boring and redundant, but Furious 7 avoids this fate through careful editing.
Another problem that many action films have is a large number of cuts that take away from the fluidity of the scene. Because stunts are dangerous, the actors can’t always do them, bringing in the stunt crew. However, because the stunt crew aren’t exact twins to the actors, sometimes action scenes need to either be shot in a close-up and/or with lots of cuts to different angles so that the audience can’t see that it’s not the actor performing the stunts. While this is a cheap route, it often leads to the audience being disoriented and not really understanding what’s going on. However, with exception to a few moments, the extreme stunts in Furious 7 are mostly clear and well-performed. That’s made even more impressive when you take into consideration the difficulty of completing the film after the death of Paul Walker.
Paul Walker, one of the stars of the franchise who has been a part of it since 2001’s The Fast and the Furious, died in a car accident on November 30th, 2013. At the time, Furious 7 was in the middle of production and not all of Walker’s scenes had been filmed. After a hiatus in filming, the filmmakers managed to finish the movie with rewrites, body doubles, and CGI. Paul’s send-off at the end of the film is very fitting and very touching, and gives the film a really tranquil sense of finality. It’s sad, but it’s a good sad.
Furious 7 is fun to watch because it doesn’t just feel thrown together. The cast seems to be having a good time while filming, and there is a definite sense of awareness of what type of film they’re making, as well as their purpose for making it. The jokes that are made in the film aren’t the humorous moments, the humour here comes from the devotion to the insanity. If there was any aspect of the film that truly disappointed me, it was the lack of crazy and memorable one-liners. That is a minor complaint though, and one that is likely not shared by most.
Another interesting fact about the Fast & Furious franchise is that most of the cast in nonwhite, which is exceptionally rare amongst large Hollywood tentpoles. Hollywood executives are often afraid to cast nonwhite actors in leading roles because they are afraid audiences (especially international audiences, where an increasing amount of a movie’s profits come from) will not want to pay money to see the movies. However, Furious 7 sports an incredibly diverse cast, with Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Michelle Rodriguez, Vin Diesel, Tyrese Gibson, Ludacris, and Nathalie Emmanuel. Nonwhite actors play the protagonists, instead of just being stuck in villain roles. That is just another reason why I’m glad I can say I enjoyed this film. 7/10.