Furious 7, or: how Fast & Furious is gonna make you cry. This is the final entry for Paul Walker. The star’s shadow is cast large over the production. His co-star’s faces are marked with visible grief and pain throughout specific scenes. The emotions and sense of duty to family is real now, the consequences of living life a quarter mile at a time, realized before us in a stunning tragedy that inserts an earned grimness to the proceedings but also a celebration of what we have always loved.
The ending finds Walker and Vin Diesel meeting up for a final drive. Walker’s brothers work as stand-ins while fantastic computer rendering emulates his more exacting features. We get one last smile, part artificial, part an artifact of the family left behind. This end leaves me choking on tears, the same as when I viewed it in the theater with my brother, a viewing situation which increased the feeling exponentially. It had always been our thing and now there was this emotional anchor behind all the great moments, something with genuine gravity and feeling, and I just lose it every damn time.
Due to the untimely real life death during shooting, this means that creative liberties were taken to make everything come together. There are many shots of Walker, or his brothers, just off-scene, the moments that were left, like a blistered wound being peeled off. There is the early scene when Walker has his son and is putting him in the car, when a bomb goes off and we feel such a surreal sorrow and sense of loss. His long-time series partner Jordana Brewster chokes through lines and Diesel’s gravelly tone drops to a flat affect as we realize that we must enjoy the present. It will not always be.
This was always going to be the hardest one to write, as I try to find the fun amidst a slew of regret and gratitude. Thankfully Furious 7’s still up for a good time. It features an insane airdrop sequence, where the entire crew literally take flight in their cars. In the last few films, good straight-forward racing has been dropped in favor of vehicle-centric stunt work that puts a premium on digital effects. This works tremendously well during the airborne car sequence and what could be better than to have Walker’s final moments on screen feeling absolutely in defiance of his own death. He was a star with such gravity and power that even posthumously, he had to be given a fair exit.
Furious 7 is an even-handed attempt to tie a bow around an actor’s great contributions to a franchise. Among his crew, we feel the loss with them and understand what a gift this all has been. I still hold this one close to my heart. Walker’s final moments on-screen cemented his legacy beautifully. While Furious 7’s great success in relaying what it’s always been about comes with a token of regret, we cannot help but appreciate having been along for the ride all this time.