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Continuing its theme of inconsistent titles with big budget vehicular mayhem, The Fate of the Furious sees Straight Outta Compton director F. Gary Gray in the driver’s seat for the eighth instalment of the massively popular Fast & Furious franchise. Go big or go home is surely the motto for each outing in Universal Pictures’ biggest and most profitable film series of all time with the ante upped once again. There is all new extreme action, insane stunts and the perfect blend of fast cars, exotic locations and quick wit proving Vin Diesel, Dwayne Johnson, Michelle Rodriguez and co still have plenty of fuel left in the tank, getting help from the likes of Jason Statham, Kurt Russell and Charlize Theron to drive forward the wildly over the top yet incredibly entertaining adrenaline rush that is each Fast & Furious movie. Always a fun time no matter the circumstances, this is one fans both old and new will be racing to see.
What started out as basically ‘Point Break with cars’ in the very first film sixteen years ago, the two films that followed shifted the focus to street racing before reuniting the original film’s stars together in the fourth’s revenge plot to unofficially reignite the series in becoming fully fledged heist films with films five, six and seven – this latest instalment once again spins the genre by announcing itself as a spy film, with even the snow capped mountains and Bond-esk one liners to match.
With Dom (Diesel) and Letty (Rodriguez) finally finding time for their honeymoon in Havana, the rest of the team now exonerated and able to live normal lives back in the United States, all is well for Dom and his self made family. But when a chance encounter brings him face to face with a mysterious cyber-terrorist by the name of Cipher (Theron) claiming to be the person responsible for recent chaos and tragedy in Dom’s life, all bets are off as he suddenly sides with the enemy. Left questioning why their brother and comrade would turn his back on family for no reason, Letty, Hobbs (Johnson), Roman (Tyrese Gibson), Tej (Ludacris) and Ramsey (Nathalie Emmanuel) team with their secret ally Mr. Nobody (Russell) and his young protégé Little Nobody (Scott Eastwood) to bring Dom in and stop him from delivering a nuclear football Cipher intends to use to start a nuclear war. Enlisting the help of former foe Deckard Shaw (Statham) who reveals Cipher to be the mastermind of previous encounters against the team, it’s a race against time to stop an anarchist’s plans for world devastation as fast cars, furious villains, planes and submarines take us from the streets of New York to the frozen lakes of Russia all in the name of family, as the revelation behind Dom’s betrayal proves more difficult than you’d think.
Seemingly doing the impossible in itself by continuing a franchise many would agree ended perfectly with the beautifully poignant tribute to the late Paul Walker in 2015’s Furious 7, this is the first film since Tokyo Drift (3) to not feature the character of Brian O’Conner. Retired at the end of the last film out of respect for Walker along with the character’s wife Mia (portrayed in the films by Jordana Brewster), the filmmakers behind this latest adventure deserve praise for the way it is handled, referencing the two characters in passing as to not forget their existence in the F&F universe.
Developing a sequel without the co-lead of just about every film that has come before is obviously no easy feat, but managing to create an enjoyable story that makes sense and carries the same vein as the previous films while adding new life at the same time is nothing short of impressive. Not to say the absence of Walker and that of Brian are not missed - which they certainly are - but with Diesel and Johnson at the helm and taking pride as the film’s two main stars, we’re still in good hands. The sheer screen presence and brutality between the two A-listers set the standard for what’s expected, even if their apparent off screen feud and refusal to film scenes together effected filming.
All the cast are clearly having the time of their lives in these roles, with some playing exaggerated versions of themselves (Gibson & Ludacris), there is the sense of family and it’s recurring theme throughout the series that is evident within reality as well. The chemistry between the cast is the biggest kick out of watching these movies aside from the beautiful expensive cars and great aesthetic is the importance of family and how far you’ll go for the love of it.
Reuniting his The Italian Job cast by introducing the greatest villain to the series thus far with Oscar winner Charlize Theron kicking ass as the unpredictably evil and remorseful Cipher with no issue killing anyone who gets in her way and the brilliant Jason Statham returning this time as an ally for a lot of the best parts in the film - including a rather electric scene involving taking hold of a plane - Gary Gray proves his days of directing big budget action films are far from behind him. Adding Helen Mirren in a small yet hilariously pivotal role and getting the excellent Kurt Russell back on board for more fun, Scott Eastwood is also a welcomed addition to the team matching punch for punch.
As an addictive hit of pure fun and silly action, it’s the perfect excuse to check your brain at the door and enjoy a two hour, sixteen-minute thrill ride. The Fate of the Furious isn’t the type of film designed to win awards, but the hearts of car lovers over the world. Already raking in a killing to the tune of seven hundred million dollars opening weekend alone, breaking global box office records to become the strongest worldwide debut for any film ever, cars smashing into each other is clearly good entertainment and the world loves it.
Escapism at its most pure in a franchise that doesn’t aim to take itself too seriously, Fast & Furious 9 and 10 are already on the way for 2019 and 2021, respectively. Before then, you’d better shift into gear and check out number 8. It’s waiting for you.