Exotic locations. Beautiful women. Outrageous action scenes. Heartfelt speeches about the importance of family. And, of course, very, very fast cars.
Welcome to the alternative, and entertaining, popcorn universe of the Fast and Furious movies, with the heroes now teaming up to save the world from a shadowy cyber-hacker terrorist who has turned one of their own.
Dominic “Dom” Toretto (Vin Diesel) is enjoying a well-earned honeymoon in Cuba with his wife Letty (Michelle Rodriguez), believed dead a few movies back, but actually recruited by mercenary Owen Shaw (Luke Evans) while she was suffering from amnesia. By the end of the last film, Furious 7, Letty had regained her memory and the team had secured a hi-tech global surveillance device from terrorist Mose Jakande (Djimon Hounsou) for the United States Government, preventing Shaw’s brother Deckard (Jason Statham), from getting his revenge on the team at the same time.
The Torettos are enjoying some time in the sun – and insanely explosive car racing – when the dreadlocked Cipher (Charlize Theron) turns up with something so shocking that it forces Dom to work against his team, by undermining an op they’re about to run. Luke Hobbs (Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson), an elite Diplomatic Security Services agent, has been tasked with an “off the books” job to secure an EMP (an electro-magnetic pulse device that can disrupt electronic devices) from a German military outpost. With the help of the team, he does so, only to be betrayed by Dom, who makes off with the EMP and delivers it to Cipher on her high-tech ghost plane.
Hobbs is sent to prison where his cell is opposite that of Deckard. Before he enters, Mr Nobody (Kurt Russell), the ultimate covert government operative, arrives with his new assistant (Scott Eastwood) to offer Hobbs a deal, a deal which he refuses. Mr Nobody’s response is to break Hobbs and Deckard out of prison, and force them, and the rest of the team, to work together to bring down Cipher, who’s revealed to be the puppet-master who was behind the events of the previous two films. And her leverage over Dom is truly terrible.
The Fast and the Furious began as Point Break with cars rather than surfing or extreme sports. The first film was about FBI agent Brian O’Conner’s (Paul Walker, who tragically died while filming the last film) attempts to infiltrate Toretto’s street-racing/high-speed-theft gang. Over time the series has mutated into a high-stakes, high-octane, action-comedy extravaganza. Many of the stunts are filmed, and not produced by CGI, and highlights of the last film including cars getting parachuted out of a plane or driving between skyscrapers in Abu Dhabi.
This time there’s a nuclear submarine and an army of self-driving “zombie” cars – and an awesome gunfight on a plane where a baby plays a part. The only film with more spectacular automotive stunts would have to be George Miller’s Mad Max: Fury Road, also starring Charlize Theron, and another example of non-CGI stunts.
The character of Cipher speaks to contemporary, and quite real, anxieties about what hackers can do, and why they do it, although the specific things she does are outrageously fantastical, even if grounded in some semblance of “reality”.
What sets The Fate of the Furious apart from say, the James Bond, and especially the Jason Bourne, series that preferred to focus on the nefariousness of government-backed cyber black ops, is that the individualist cyber-activist is the villain, rather than the government.
The series is a hit with the writers at National Review, the august American conservative journal founded by William F. Buckley. It is, after all, a series where family is the thing that matters most, where having a code is essential, and where the films end with the heroes saying grace before having a celebratory feast. It’s multicultural and multiracial without being political about it, and the female characters are just as tough and capable as the blokes. More than this, we see in the series the evolution of the characters from being laws unto themselves into free-spirited agents of the law. With this comes a theme of redemption, of bad guys atoning for their sins by doing good.
This all adds up to a series with a strong moral core – even if it is fantastic – and an absolutely thrilling cinematic ride.