In 2013, Paul Walker, who we know as Brian O’Connor - ex-LAPD and later FBI agent, turned fugitive street racer in the Fast & Furious franchise - died in a tragic car accident. It was clear among fans that such a tragedy would have to be addressed in the final film. We’ve come a long way since O’Connor started eating tuna sandwiches at the Toretto (Vin Diesel) café. Within the series itself, there have been various injuries to the characters including two on screen deaths, only to later appear again in further installments: such as Leti (Michelle Rodriguez). Paul’s death showed the world that these stars were mortal like everyone else when away from camera. He passed away halfway through filming the final film in the story and his two brothers, Caleb and Cody, were called upon to help finish it, with the help of some impressive but subtle computer graphics. Overall, as a commemoration to Paul, all those involved in the film can rest assure that they have done him justice.
Furious 7 see O’Connor tempt death on multiple occasions. At one point, he runs the full length of the side of a bus that’s falling off a cliff, after the team had parachuted in their cars out the back of a military transport aircraft. Meanwhile, Toretto is busy in a muscle car face-off with the bad guy of this film, Deckard Shaw, the brother of Owen Shaw who was dispatched in the previous film. Jason Statham in this role brings a new rejuvenated dynamic to the franchise. This constant edge-of-your-seat dicing with death is one of the factors that make the film so good. One bad point, however, is that it’s rather long, coming in 2 and ¼ hours.
The F&F films have always done well at showcasing the impressive street cultures found around the world. We’ve had Los Angeles, London, Rio, and in this film, James Wan, the new director, takes us to Abu Dhabi. The reason behind this new scenery is to find a computer chip belonging to hacker, Ramsay, played by Nathalie Emmanuel from Games of Thrones. Whilst scripted, the real reason is obviously to show the impressive array of expensive supercars that Abu Dhabi has to offer before seeing the hero joyriders drive them furiously through sand and surprisingly through three different buildings.
The ‘Family’ – as the actors in the franchise notoriously like to refer to themselves – has continued to grow as the story has progressed. Along with Statham and Emmanuel, we also see Kurt Russell, Rhonda Rousey and Tony Jaa making an appearance. Unfortunately, one of the more popular characters, Agent Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) doesn’t really play a big role. He’s sidelined to a hospital bed for the majority of the film, but he makes the most of the time he’s on screen. In fact, one of the final sequences of the film sees Hobbs taking Deckard to his prison cell and uttering a line, in essence tipping the hat to the notion that the old racial hierarchy’s are being overturned. As a film in the franchise, it comes in as being possibly the strongest and is definitely top three, only behind the first and fifth films.
The film closes with an emotional tribute to Paul: the family, all back together on a beach, watching as O’Connor, his wife Mia (Jordana Brewster) and their son play by the sea. Toretto leaves driving off before pulling up at an intersection. To the audience’s heartfelt surprise, we see O’Connor pull up beside him in what looks like a white Mitsubishi Eclipse: the first car we ever saw him drive in the first film.
“Hey! You thought you could leave without saying goodbye?!” he says to Toretto. The two then share a brotherly moment before driving off into the sunset, each taking a different direction at a fork in the road. There follows a montage of Paul’s best scenes and a hard-hitting line delivered by Vin and music: “See you again” by Wiz Khalifa (ft. Charlie Puth). At the final fade, the words “For Paul” grace the screen leaving many, unexpectedly, shedding a tear. Whilst providing a fitting tribute to Paul, we must also acknowledge the other life extinguished in the accident: Roger Rodas. A close friend of Paul’s, Rodas was a racing driver and owned his own car customization business. He too, left behind loving family and friends and should be remembered just as much after losing his life in that accident.