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JAK The Fate of the Furious Review
The Fate of the Furious Review
Fate of the Furious (The Fast and the Furious 8)
The 8th in a series of movies has a lot of work to keep things fresh and interesting while still feeling connected to previous movies. Fate of the Furious has to deal with a new director, as well as the loss of the series’ main character (RIP Paul Walker). It also has to deal with the escalation of absurd action sequences in previous installments
From the very beginning it’s a strong start. The movie starts out in Cuba with a street race. Vin Diesel has to show off his driving skills in support of his cousin. He strips down a Cuban classic into a ratrod to defend the honour of his family. Previous movies had gotten away from the ‘street racer’ origin of the series, so this was a fantastic way to show this movie knows exactly what it’s supposed to be.
Not only does it start strong, it continues to be strong. Returning characters are brought back with flair, letting us know what they’ve been up to, but also with enough context that the movie is easily accessible to anyone who’s forgotten, or never seen previous installments (new viewers will miss a few in jokes, but overall understand exactly what’s going on.)
With so many characters, it would be very simple for them to become caricatures, or place holders for plot points. Instead, they are all given a chance to be themselves in terms of their own story arcs and having their own moments. It IS an action movie, so the story arcs are pretty shallow, but they are balanced very well. Vin Diesel, Jason Statham and Charlize Theron are clearly the stars, but the supporting actors all have great scenes and dialogue.
A common problem with a series of stories is there seems to be a rule about ramping things up. More characters, more action, more more more. In a series that features car chases and action sequences they had been pushing credulity more and more. For the most part ‘Fate’ keeps the action sequences exciting, intense, easy to follow and plausible. Certainly ‘plausible’ is still kept to the realm of action movies where gun shots are shrugged off, but the characters have been dialed back from their ninja level fighting skills, or cars flying through the skyline. The action fuels the story, instead of being spectacle for the sake of spectacle. (There are still over the top scenes. If you want realism, then maybe movies aren’t for you.)
Aside from street racing, the series is also known for creative car chases. Previous movies have taken us through city streets around the world, deserts, mountains, high rises, so keeping it fresh is perhaps the biggest challenge. Yet they do. Racing through the streets of Havana, Cuba, New York City and the frozen arctic ocean does that well. Villains making use of modern ‘computer controlled cars’ provides some fantastic visuals.
While there are always cheats to get characters motivated to get the story done in a 2 hour movie, most of the characters are consistent with their previous portrayals. In the cases where they’re not, there are on screen explanations of why they’re acting the way they do. Vin Diesel continues to value his family above all. The Rock continues to do the right thing even if it means bending some rules. Charlize Theron is the consummate modern villain, believing themselves to be doing nasty things in order to accomplish a greater good. Kurt Russel continues to play the best ‘mysterious spy master’ I’ve ever seen on film. (In Furious 7 I claimed he was a better Nick Fury than Samuel L Jackson. I still say that’s true. Giving him a by the book protégé in Scott Eastwood is a very enjoyable sub plot.) The biggest wildcard is Jason Statham. We’re given an inkling as to why he’s changed, but that’s something reserved for the next film. Luckily, he plays his part so very well, it’s easy to forgive the cheats involved in his arc.
Frustration includes ‘mysterious’ villains and some uncessary bending of the rules of physics
Fate does of have its moments of frustration. The motives of the villains are withheld from the audience. There is no pay off for that. Indeed, knowing what they’re doing right away would have provided more tension, and allowed other twists and surprises to be more meaningful. Instead too much comes late in the movie, without a sense of scale, it’s hard feel mounting tension.
While physics are more respected than previous movies, a few times the rules are comically disregarded. Specifically, there’s a scene where the cars are trying to outrun a submarine, and the cars are winning. So far so good. Suddenly the submarine breaks through the ice and begins to outrace the cars. So… a submarine underwater is slower than cars, but plowing through the ice is faster?
I really enjoyed the ‘computer controlled’ car chase, and it starts out well enough, with modern cars being taken over. However, it’s hard to suspend disbelief when Crown Victorias are being taken over. I’ll believe a Tesla or a Jeep with automated parking being taken over. Not an old taxi. There was just no need for that.
Ultimately the characters, the action and the situation of the movie is a lot of fun. Helen Mirren has a fun cameo role. The Rock is as charming as ever. All of the old characters are back (where possible). The underlying themes of family and doing the ‘right’ thing continues to inform the story. There are some common action movie sins, but they’re all in spirit of keeping things exciting. The music is energetic, the characters are having fun, and the story twists and turns without ever being difficult to follow. It’s not the best Fast & Furious movie, but I’d put it in the top 3.