*REVIEW* Fast 8 : Family love conquers all; and Brian O’Conner gone but not forgotten !!!

Cars racing, chasing, flying and pretty much raining down !!! It’s a sign that Fast and Furious is back!!!!

If there is one thing the F&F franchise has proved time and again over the last 16 years is that just when you think it’s about to run out of fuel and can never surpass it’s predecessors in terms of visual extravaganza it proves you wrong by bringing in an even more elaborate fuel-injection system.

It has been one week since the eighth installment in The Fast and the Furious movie franchise – The Fate of the Furious also known as Fast & Furious 8, Fast 8 and stylized as F8, released and while it is a solid addition to the franchise and hits all the right chords; you leave the movie theater feeling something was a miss. F8 is the first film in the series to be conceived after the death of Paul Walker, and the absence of the actor and one of the most loved character – Brian O’Connor shows. While Brain and Mia are thoroughly missed it is not just their absence that makes you feel that the movie is lacking something. Though the movie has gotten bigger, something that kept it grounded and relatable is slowly slipping away.

Fast 8 like its predecessors is a dazzling action spectacle and very much synonymous with the words – Sleek, stylish and visually brilliant. In fact it may even be the most spectacular one yet. It is easily one of those movies which is totally worth your money, time and theater experience. They did not compromise on anything and if it is possible F8 was much bigger in terms of action-cinema as it takes it all to a whole new level. It’s mind-boggling, leaves you at loss of words and puts you on the edge of your seats. The adrenaline rush one expects to feel while watching a movie that belongs to the the F&F brand is still intact and yet it falls falls short when compared to the previous installments. There is a sense of disconnect and at times the movie feels cluttered- like they are trying to cramp up as much as possible.

If you have seen the trailers or the movie poster the tagline of this movie stands out and goes “Family No More”. And of course watching the events in the trailer only makes you think out loud “What the hell just happened?”. Combine the two and you know not all is well in this family. What makes Dominic ‘Dom’ Toretto (Vin Diesel) turn against his own family? What makes brother turn on brother?

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The movie takes off in Havana where Dom and Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) are on their honeymoon. As per tradition the movie grabs its viewers attention right in the opening scene where Toretto races a local racer and wins. Everything is going smooth until Cipher – Fast 8’s brand new villain shows up and coerces Toretto to work for her and shows him something on a mobile that leaves the guy with no option but to oblige. From then the movie takes on a dramatic turn whereby family turns against family. One may wonder why Cipher wants Toretto to do her dirty work, as there are 100’s and 1000’s of people out there better suited for the job that Cipher has planned. But as we all know as much as F&F franchise is about street races and car chases and actions and thrills; it is also about family. And this time to every event that occurs including Dom turning against his family happens for family. The suspense as to why Dom agreed is kept for a while, but you know for a man who talks about family and brotherhood to cave in and betray those he’s closest to, means whatever was on the mobile is pretty darn serious.

The franchise tries to do something different this time around and since Dominic Toretto is virtually untouchable behind the wheel, they decide to turn him against his ‘family’ considerably raising the stakes on a personal front. Story wise F8 is logical. There is a good rational explanation and a logical flow regarding the events that unfold whether it is the reason Cipher chose Dom for her twisted game or Dom agreeing to be her pawn or why Mr. Nobody (Kurt Russell) brings Deckard Shaw on board to assist the team in stopping Cipher. Every move has a sound reasoning.

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As an high octane action movie coming from one of the most loved movie franchises in the world every scene in Fast 8 packs a punch. It is unbelievably elegant, unbelievable being the key word; with stunning action set pieces that are coordinated with a exuberance with surgical precision that emerges from detailed planning, dedication and sheer hard work. The sequences does not disappoint. If Furious 7 saw a Lykan Hypersport flying from one building of the Ethihad Twin Towers to the other; Fast 8 has cars hacked and controlled by Cipher and her team driving out of showrooms and raining down on city streets from a multistory parking garage trapping the vehicle of the Russian defense minister with nuclear launch codes, Deckard parkour-ing his way out of a maximum-security prison, Dom’s family spearing his car from four directions, car chase action on an ice field trying to outrun a submarine and much more. Each of these sequences, especially the chases are gorgeously choreographed — and utterly illogical. But hey it’s F&F and this is what we love about it.

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Fast 8 witnessed the entry of a new villain – Cipher – a cyber terrorist essayed by the brilliant Charlize Theron. Theron proves to be an ace villain: domineering, cold and cunning but Cipher was no where close to the the franchise’s most lethal villain Deckard Shaw essayed by the amazing Jason Statham who once again reprises his role in the movie but with a new twist. Vin Diesel has grown as an action star (Thanks to F&F and XXX Franchises) and it is a treat to see him play Dominic Toretto as ever. Teaming Jason Statham and Dwayne Johnson together was a particularly ingenious move. Believe it or not their constant bickering and need to prove who is more deadlier is among the movie’s main pleasures. Though both these actors are known for their action stars, their comic skills in recent years has impressed the audience and has been put to best use in Fast 8.

The movie climaxes is a well choreographed but preposterously elaborate showdown and it has everything a F&F movie climax is expected to have. But however preposterous the scene is one can help but look at the screen with a pride as it shows how far the series have come. Today F&F is not just a movie franchise but it’s a multicultural phenomenon and therefore it is their responsibility to live up to the audience expectations.

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Two times the otherwise excited crowd went completely silent was when Brian O’Conner name was mentioned. Furious 7 saw Brain retire from the chases and races to lead a happy a safe life with Mia and their kids. This was done to cherish Paul Walker’s memory instead of tainting it by showing Brian’s death (Paul Walker died in 2013). We see that memory kept still alive and cherished when Roman tells the team that they should call Brian as he would know what to do. Letty objects to this suggestion because Brain had left their life-style behind to lead a better life with his family. She reminds the team that if Brain knew about Dom going off the rails he would rush back to them in no time but Dom would never want that. The scene makes you emotional but what takes the cake and probably even tears you up is Dom naming the newest member of his ‘Family’ his baby boy, his son – ‘Brian’ in memory of the series beloved character Brian O’Connor essayed by Paul Walker – bother, friend and family.

The film’s opening is easily the best scene in the movie. Though illogical it is a gorgeously choreographed classic old-school street race (The only one in the entire movie) which reminds the viewers of the series origin. The race is uneven as Dom’s opponent’s car is supposedly the fastest in Havana while Dom is stuck with a slow jalopy. After stripping down the car to nothing but engines and outfits and fitting it with a NOS (Nitrous Oxide) canister which will give the car insane speed or drown it in flames (or both) the race commences. Dom and his opponent races through the street mazes of Havana and in the home stretch Dom drives the car in reverse as the NOS causes the engine to burst into flames. There is a slow-motion overhead shot of the race where Dom inches ahead his opponent across the finish line winning the race and that shot alone gives you a head rush and damned if you are not tempted to do air fist-pump. I’d happily take such scenes over the climax submarine scene as the soul of F&F, a huge part of what makes F&F such an amazing franchise are these scenes.

While saving the world can be fun, returning to the roots should be the next logical step in the franchise so as to keep the adrenaline pumping and the viewers interest intact. Also even if Fast 8 stayed true to its brand and that does not hold true for only the action or car sequences but also the emotions, the family bonds and brotherhood the movie has always showcased right from when the movie series was launched in 2001 the latter part looked compromised a lot. Yes the movie did have elements but it was not the usual F&F standard issue. As Dom himself tells “It’s not what’s under the hood that matters, it’s who’s behind the wheel” and “I don’t have friends, I got Family” this is a series that might benefit, in the future, from going back to basics.

Review By: Vijitha Rajan

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