The Fast and the Furious franchise has reached quite the milestone with the release of its eighth feature, The Fate of the Furious. Perhaps the only franchise that’s come even close would be if you counted the separate franchises of the Marvel Cinematic Universe as one cohesive whole. On top of this, the series has steadily grown in quality, cast, and scope, evolving from going undercover in street racing to saving the world from international criminals. Luckily, this movie goes to show that the franchise will continue to go higher up and further in.
The Fate of the Furious, directed by F. Gary Gray, begins in modern-day Havana, where Dom (Vin Diesel) and Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) are enjoying their honeymoon in Havana, Cuba. It’s a quiet time in their lives, as they spend their time mingling with their neighbors and discussing their futures in between car races. Their time is cut short after Dom is confronted by the cyber-terrorist Cipher (Charlize Theron), who convinces Dom to betray his team and join her on her team. It is then up to the Crew, which includes Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Tyrese Gibson, Ludacris, Nathalie Emmanuel, Kurt Russel, Scott Eastwood, and even Jason Statham this time around, to stop Cipher and, if push comes to shove, kill Dom should the need arise.
There’s something to be said about reviewing a movie whose entire premise is being as ridiculous as possible. It wouldn’t be appropriate to judge the movie against a serious drama like Moonlight, or the grounded action of John Wick, but by the own terms that the franchise had set for itself. What are those terms exactly? To top what happened in the last movie, of course, in terms of action and surprises. Most of the action scenes are all present in the trailers, but they still are quite impressive on the big screen. The best scene, however, is closer to the end of the movie and instead of being a huge action piece, is actually rather subdued. What this tells us is that while the action in these movies is certainly larger, the director knows that doesn’t necessarily mean better, and it’s a smart play in the eighth movie of a franchise.
The writing in Fate of the Furious is expected. It has the expected rising of the stakes, but this movie, to its credit, really goes for it. In Fast 5, the team was just trying to rob a bank, in the next movie, defeat a mercenary group, and in the previous Furious 7, retrieve a piece of tech called the God’s Eye while dodging attacks from Jason Statham. This movie, however, instead of doing something of the same caliber, shifts the entire movie up to the tenth gear by having the entire crew stop World War 3 from happening. This type of escalation, to put into perspective, would probably be the same as placing Jessica Jones, fresh after the end of her first season, was suddenly dropped into the events of Age of Ultron. To say the least, this is quite the ballsy move, and it fits the franchise quite well.
The plot, of course, has the twists and turns of a soap opera, and the memetic dialogue is still ever-present; but at the same time, The Fate of the Furious is also pretty smart about everything. This is especially true with Theron’s character, as her scenes are much different than any other bad guy that the crew has had to face before. Her speeches are slick and calm in comparison to the louder men that have come before her. This gives her a sense of menace and control that makes her a much more memorable antagonist in comparison to the past films. Because of this, the way the plot moves and shifts are well justified and flow out logically.
The acting is also what we expect of the franchise, with special nods to The Rock and Charlize Theron as both of these characters command whichever scene they happen to be in. As much fun as it would have been to see these two have a scene together, apart they were able to bring out different energies from the movie depending on whose side the movie is focusing on. With the heroes, The Rock is able to use his natural charisma to get the audience to stay onboard whatever escapade they are about to get themselves into, and Charlize Theron uses her scenes to highlight how far reaching and powerful a threat she is to not only the world at large but to the very hearts of the crew itself. The other actors also do well in their roles, and gel quite well with newcomers Scott Eastwood and Hellen Mirren, who are welcome editions as a wet-behind-the-ears agent and a mysterious figure respectively. There’s no one who takes you out of the movie, everyone works together to get you engrossed in the action. If there is a small negative, it is that there is a small hole in the cast where the late Paul Walker used to fill. The Fate of the Furious gets by on its own, but his absence is still felt through the movie, unfortunately.
The Fast and the Furious franchise has been doing the impossible, improving with each new piece of its story. The only problem the movies could face would be running out of ideas for stunts and fights. Luckily, that is not a problem here and is worth your time and all the money you’ll spend on popcorn.
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