REVIEW: Fast & Furious 8
The first entry of the Fast & Furious saga without the late Paul Walker since Tokyo Drift, Fast & Furious 8 recalibrated and refueled the franchise while tying into its previous installments. Some familiar faces returned and some new faces made their mark in the ever-expanding saga chronicling the lives of Dominic Toretto and his […]
The first entry of the Fast & Furious saga without the late Paul Walker since Tokyo Drift, Fast & Furious 8 recalibrated and refueled the franchise while tying into its previous installments. Some familiar faces returned and some new faces made their mark in the ever-expanding saga chronicling the lives of Dominic Toretto and his family of street-racing misfits.
In the film, Dom’s crew had to deal with his betrayal and unexpected alignment with Cipher, an enigmatic cyber-terrorist who serves as the film’s primary antagonist. In order to get to Cipher and Dom, the crew would have to work with the unlikeliest ally they could ever have — black ops mercenary and former nemesis Deckard Shaw.
I won’t lie when I say Dom turning his back on his family, the central plot of the film, surprised me when I saw the trailer. When the reason behind his cooperation with Cipher was revealed, it was both shocking and expected for me at the same time. From that point on, the story played out perfectly in my eyes. It had a great balance of action, drama, suspense, and comedy.
Part of the story’s masterful execution can be attributed to the direction of F. Gary Gray, the man behind classic films such as Friday, The Negotiator, The Italian Job, and most recently Straight Outta Compton. “I wanted to bring something different to the franchise, and it all starts with the story. This is completely different; it’s nothing we’ve ever experienced in the Fast franchise,” recalled Gray. You may consider me a little bit biased but Gray is among my favorite directors of all time. And it also helped that the four top-billed actors in the film (Diesel, Johnson, Statham, and Theron) have had previous experience working with him.
There’s not much to say as far as characters go since those who returned from previous installments didn’t change much. The only notable exception for me was Deckard Shaw. When his motives behind joining Dom’s former crew are made clear, you might find yourself rooting for him from the second act onward. The not-so-subtle hint at a love triangle between Roman, Tej, and Ramsey that carried over from Fast & Furious 7 treads the fine line between amusing and distracting to the overall story. But thankfully, they didn’t get into that much in terms of lighthearted moments within the otherwise darker tone of the film. Rounding out the cast are a few other characters who show up as pleasant surprises for fans of the franchise. Everyone managed to get enough screen time in this installment, which is always a positive.
One of the focal points for Fast & Furious 8 was filling the void left by the absence of Brian O’Conner, Walker’s character in the franchise and arguably my favorite character in the series. As a result, the film elevated Luke Hobbs to secondary protagonist status and introduced Little Nobody as a by-the-book agent under the tutelage of Mr. Nobody and with an affinity for tuners — most notably models made by Subaru. While Johnson’s star power was enough to convince fans that Hobbs would be the second alpha dog of the franchise from here on out, it may take some time to get used to seeing Little Nobody as part of the team. I can only hope that they don’t end up making Little Nobody an exact duplicate of Brian in future installments.
Of course as with any Fast & Furious film, suspension of disbelief plays a key role here, from the car chases to the fight scenes. Where else will you see a crew of racers try to outrun a submarine or a man divert the path of a moving torpedo with his bare hands? If you haven’t seen the previous entries under the Fast & Furious banner, you’ll have to take your thinking cap off during the movie to fully appreciate the absurdity of it all.
Overall, Fast & Furious 8 kept a long-running franchise fresh without losing its core message — the importance of family. If you can enjoy the film without nitpicking the technical aspects and how all of that would work in real life, you’re in for a hell of a ride.
All photos courtesy of Columbia Pictures