I'll just come right out and say it: Furious 7 is the best Fast & Furious movie. It's a wonderful blend of the two things these films do best — cheesy sentimentality and jaw-dropping action — and it's packed to the brim with comedic moments and transcendent set pieces. It also contains a perfect goodbye to Paul Walker that left me wiping away tears. It's everything you could want in a Fast movie, and more.
Director: James Wan
Starring: Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Jason Statham, Michelle Rodriguez, et al.
Finally catching us up with the events put into motion back in 2006 in Tokyo Drift, Furious 7 opens with Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham), the older brother of Fast & Furious 6 villain Owen Shaw (Luke Evans), coming after our heroes on a quest for revenge. But Dom (Vin Diesel), Brian (Paul Walker), Letty (Michelle Rodriguez), Mia (Jordana Brewster), Tej (Ludacris), and Roman (Tyrese Gibson) don't take kindly to Shaw killing one of their own, so the film quickly sets up a vengeance vs. vengeance plot that contains some of the best action sequences of the decade.
There are some new faces — Statham (playing the biggest badass this series has ever seen outside of Diesel and The Rock), Kurt Russell, Game of Thrones' Nathalie Emmanuel — and, as usual, a totally ridiculous plot that leads the gang all over the world. This one feels more like a Bond movie than any other, not only because of the huge action, but because of the movie's MacGuffin: a piece of tracking technology that allows anyone to hack into every video and audio device in the world to find anyone in seconds. But none of that is really important; as always, it's more about having Vin Diesel talk about family and seeing what kind of jaw-dropping stunts these guys can pull off on their way to the finish line.
Right now, as I'm sitting here basking in the afterglow of seeing this film, I'm willing to call this one of the best action movies of all time. It's not nearly as narratively tight as something like Die Hard or Raiders of the Lost Ark, but if a conversation comes up about movies with the best set pieces, I think Furious 7 has to be in the conversation not just for how well-executed they all are, but for the sheer number of them. Look at this breakdown: Dwayne Johnson vs. Jason Statham. Michelle Rodriguez vs. Ronda Rousey. Paul Walker vs. Tony Jaa (twice). Vin Diesel vs. Statham. And those are just this film's hand-to-hand fight sequences; having only those scenes would probably make this more impressive than most traditional modern action films, and I haven't even mentioned a single scene involving cars yet.
But those car sequences...man, James Wan does such a phenomenal job here. He stepped in to replace Justin Lin and stepped up in a major way, and with this one movie, he's cemented himself as one of the best action directors in Hollywood. The way he handles geography, placing the camera exactly where it needs to be so we understand what everything means for every character involved, is nothing short of masterful. He totally gets it and doesn't miss a step coming into this franchise, topping the spectacle of Fast Five and Fast & Furious 6 and leaving me wondering how the heck future sequels will ever surpass the action put on film here.
I've seen people say that this movie is only for fans of the franchise, and since I love these movies so much, it's impossible for me to take a step back and look at it objectively. I'm actually glad about that: I'm glad that being a fan makes the ending of this movie a powerful moment for me and not something that has no weight to it, I'm glad that having a working knowledge of the previous movies pays off in regards to plot points in this one that retroactively make the earlier films better, and I'm glad that these films feel specifically made for me and the other members of the Fast #family, who embrace them for what they are and don't love them in a "guilty pleasure" sort of way but just genuinely love them. The film plants seeds for another sequel, and I'm already looking forward to seeing how this magnificent series continues to evolve.