F9 go to space, come home



Cinema is alive.
Photo: Courtesy of Universal Studios

F9 opens on a race track in 1989, just before what would become the defining incident in the life of sinister hero Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) – the death of his father, who is one of the competing drivers, in an accident of fire. This incident, a footnote from an origin story mentioned in the first The Fast and the Furious 20 years ago this might be news to anyone who later came into the mammoth franchise and developed the entirely reasonable impression that these are indestructible globetrotting agents fighting tanks and jumping. cars driving through the skyscrapers of Dubai. The last, The fate of the furious, ended with the characters facing a nuclear submarine on the ice plains of the Barents Sea. Despite that, it wasn’t very good, having been made under the mistaken assumption that excess is the key to these films when in fact seriousness is. To watch director Justin Lin, who returned for F9 and the next two films that will wrap up the series, bringing things back to the beginning is to feel a blessed relief that this improbably good reductive daddy’s opera could hold its landing just fine.

If the public has forgotten that the Fast Furiouses started as the story of a guy who got into illicit street racing after being banned from the legal genre after almost killing the guy who caused the crash that killed his dad, films them – even did not. They never forget anything, which is their most enduring quality. It’s like a writing exercise in which anything is possible – F9 go to space – but only if it fits into the overall emotional continuity, which is why when in the last episode Dom’s team teamed up with Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham), a man responsible for the murder of the one of them, Han (Sung Kang), it sounded like betrayal. What happens to these characters may be ridiculous, but their reactions have always been consistent, and when the new film happily brings Han back from the dead through an act of deus ex retconning, the satisfaction of the scene doesn’t come from the explanation but of how the reactions of other characters to seeing him are calibrated according to the distance traveled with him.

When Dom germinates a separated younger brother named Jakob (John Cena) in F9, the movie doesn’t blink at the fact that it’s never been mentioned before – enough that it has Toretto’s scowl and the superpowers of the automobile, and Mia (Jordana Brewster) is positions as the brother who got stuck between them. Jakob is a “spy,” which is the word the show chose for the international antics it has now committed to, and he works with Otto (Thue Ersted Rasmussen), a dictator brat, to retrieve a MacGuffin of destruction. massive. The plan, which doesn’t need to be figured out and probably can’t be figured out, involves Charlize Theron’s super-hacker character Cipher, though the show still has no idea what he’s doing. must do with it. Rather, it focuses on how Jakob complicates the idealized concept of family Dom has always married, revealing in a series of flashbacks that there was more to what happened than Dom was aware of.

Diesel isn’t a great actor, but he has certain qualities that, in the right context, are just as good – like the inexorable gravity of a neutron star and the ability to project a whole range of emotions through a shine that never does. really change. F9 Pushes his appeal to its limits being as much about Dom’s internal journey as it is his ability to swing his car on a rope through a canyon as if it were a two-ton Tarzan. It works, because Lin understands that something stupid can be great, too. Whether Diesel also understands this has never been clear, but he certainly embodies it. In one scene, he has a near-death experience in which he returns through memories he deleted (Vinnie Bennett and Finn Cole play the young versions of Dom and Jakob), ones that suggest his much-lamented relative did was not as perfect as he chose to believe. He then seems to be witnessing something that he could not have seen in person, because what are the rules of time and space for Dominic Toretto?

By the time he broke up with his brother involved, of course, a street race with the highest stakes, and as his older brother stood on the bridge, watching cars go by at full speed, this saga of choice families feels like he’s hitting his perfect, pulpy chorus. These are characters trying to figure out how to be good men, shedding the baggage of bad fathers and impossible ghosts (and inexplicably absent mothers; where are all the mothers?). The answer, in the series, is that inevitably, one becomes better at engaging and caring for others – this broad but demanding idea of ​​family lives on. And in F9, this emotional substance gives the accompanying ridicule a bit of strange grace. When Roman (Tyrese Gibson) and Tej (Chris “Ludacris” Bridges) find themselves in a Pontiac Fiero strapped to a rocket and headed for orbit, the characters themselves speak out about the absurdity of what’s going on. A lot of this movie is absurd – the shameless product placement, the un-shrewd self-esteem of its star, and the imaginative but highly unscientific use of magnets in certain escalating action sequences. But when the couple are finally up there, the first snap is a lovely shot of the Earth reflecting off their makeshift helmets, behind which are their amazed faces. Who would have guessed two decades ago that this is where we would end up? You have to laugh at the audacity and the sheer joy of it all.

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