Fast And Furious 6 | 2013
- DIRECTOR |
- Justin Lin
Logic and credibility are not the strong points of this entry into the F&F franchise, what with cinema’s least likely street race and that infamously endless runway, but that’s not the point. Justin Lin’s aim is to provide pure kinetic pleasure with fast cars, speed, adrenaline and even faster cars.
As the series continues its globetrotting, the main locations this time around are the UK and the Canary Islands, a group of Spanish-owned islands just off the northwest coast of Africa.
This being a Fast & Furious film, the happy event naturally triggers a race along a treacherously winding coast road as Brian races his Nissan GT-R against Dominic Toretto’s (Vin Diesel) modified Challenger to be at her bedside for the birth along the hair-raising road between Buenavista del Norte and Punta de Teno on the northeast of the island. A sign warns of the danger of falling rocks, and parts of the road may be closed during storms or high winds.
Meanwhile in Russia, Security Service agent Luke Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) and his partner Riley Hicks (Gina Carano) have been alerted to something big happening after the sophisticated attack on a military convoy in the heart of ‘Moscow’.
Don’t let those CGI onion domes and spires fool you. The burned out wrecks of the convoy are discovered on Lambeth Bridge at Millbank, London SW1, where a stray car is being gingerly removed from an upper window of 9 Millbank (in reality, the HQ of energy regulatory body, Ofgem).
You can see the triple-decker Knight Bus squeezing though traffic on the same bridge in Harry Potter And The Prisoner Of Azkaban, and it's also featured in Spooks: The Greater Good (since it's just opposite MI5 HQ).
Likewise, the severe ‘Russian’ Interpol HQ is the white deco, Portland stone tower of Senate House, the University of London Union, on Malet Street at Montague Place in Bloomsbury, WC1.
Vaguely totalitarian in scale (it was built in the mid-Thirties), the block provided the model for George Orwell’s sinister Ministry of Truth in 1984, and that’s exactly how it was seen in Michael Radford’s film 1984 – made in 1984.
It’s the Union’s clean, no-nonsense interior that’s more often seen on screen – as the bunker of the king in Richard III, with Ian McKellen, and as the ‘Manhattan’ clinic in Tony Scott’s The Hunger, but most famously as the Gotham City courthouse in both Batman Begins and The Dark Knight.
Hobbs persuades to assemble his scattered crew to take down the really bad guy, the one behind all the other bad guys, while rescuing Letty (Michelle Rodriguez), who we all thought had been killed off in Fast And Furious.
This supervillain is Owen Shaw (Luke Evans) and, naturally, British so the team assembles in the deserted floor of a London hi-rise office to be briefed about the ‘Nightshade’ device he’s in the process of building).
The huge diagonal cross-braces outside the window will be familiar to anyone who commutes into the City via London’s Cannon Street Station. It’s the frontage of Cannon Place, 78 Cannon Street, on Dowgate Hill, the shiny new block which squats above the terminus.
Information gleaned from Hobbs’ energetic interrogation of a suspect at the Interpol HQ leads to a police raid on what is believed to be Shaw’s base, but which turns out to be nothing more than a diversion.
Shaw makes an impressive exit in a snazzy custom armoured car, demolishing the whole place with a series of explosions behind him.
This hideout is a (currently) empty plot of land on Admirals Way, off Marsh Wall, just to the south of Heron Quays in the Canary Wharf Docklands development. As you can see, rail lines curve by it and, if it’s not already disappeared under a corporate bank hi-rise, you can see the site from the DLR (Docklands Light Railway) immediately south of Heron Quays station.
Hobbs and co. give chase but Shaw comes equipped with a set of nifty stick-on chips capable of sending pursuing vehicles haywire.
You won’t recognize the streets of London, though. The high-octane chase was filmed around Broomielaw, Cadogan Street and Wellington Street in Glasgow. Broomielaw is the major thoroughfare running along the North Bank of the River Clyde, through the city’s Financial District. The car showroom into which they crash was a set built on a vacant lot at the corner of McAlpine Street.
The Scots city centre is laid out in a US grid style, which is not only convenient for filming car chases but also able to stand in for the USA in films such as World War Z and Cloud Atlas.
The London production had to contend with, not just the usual restrictions on filming in the heart of the capital, but the added complication of the 2012 Olympic Games.
To confuse matters further, the tunnel through which the chase roars is the Queensway Tunnel, running beneath the River Mersey to link Liverpool and Birkenhead on Merseyside. It’s another Harry Potter location, through which Hagrid is chased in Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows, Part I.
Nevertheless, they emerge from the tunnel in front of the new Wembley Stadium. It’s clear something is amiss when Letty shoots at Toretto.
She hares off to Shaw’s real hideout, where she’s able to identify the team that’s been following them. Shaw’s lair is a nondescript coach garage in East London. It’s Empress Coaches on Corbridge Crescent, alongside the canal in Cambridge Heath.
This seems to be quite a lively area. It was on this short stretch of canalside road that the nightclub was torched in Gangster No.1, that the safe house in Tomas Alfredson’s 2011 film of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy and more recently the car chase ended in Kingsman: The Secret Service.
Attempting to track down whoever made Shaw’s custom wheels, Hobbs and Tej (Ludacris) attend a swanky motor auction held on the Thamesside terrace of Old Billingsgate, 1 Old Billingsgate Walk, EC3, with its terrific views across to HMS Belfast, Tower Bridge and City Hall (the thing that looks like a first-generation iMac). It’s here they gleefully take revenge on the pompous organiser who assumes they’re the kitchen help.
For decades the city’s major wholesale fishmarket, Billingsgate is now an events space. You can see its brick vaults masquerading as an oddly funky ‘Holloway Prison’ in camp classic Basic Instinct 2.
A Russian shell casing in turn leads Toretto and O’Conner to a dodgy arms dealer operating from a shabby pawn shop. This is not the bustling market area it appears on screen, but a small lot behind the railway arch at the end of Hare Row, off Cambridge Heath Road. In fact, the pair are closer to Shaw than they realise. The spot is immediately behind Shaw’s garage.
Shaw’s gizmo supplier Firuz (Thure Lindhardt) is discovered, rather recklessly, testing out his weaponry in the old goods yards of King’s Cross Station, within clear view of the busy terminus.
Coincidentally, this is the railway station that provided the Eurostar service before it moved to St Pancras in 2007. In fact, it’s on the conveniently disused (and currently inaccessible) Eurostar passenger walkway that Roman (Tyrese Gibson) and Han (Sung Kang) have a run-in with Jah.
The shiny modernity of the Waterloo concourse contrasts strangely with the grubby, old-fashioned, green-and-white tiled subway in which Letty and Hicks slug it out. It’s almost as if they were two different stations.
The subway is actually the abandoned Aldwych Station on The Strand. Closed in 1994, Aldwych is the standard go-to station for filming without disruption on the underground.
It transpires that Shaw is also behind Braga, who runs the biggest drug cartel in Mexico, and who’s currently banged up in California. It’s up to O’Conner to make a risky trip to the states (where he’s still wanted) to talk to the man.
O’Conner is briskly carted off to California State Prison, Lancaster, where Braga (John Ortiz) helpfully gives him a little info – the only way to get to Shaw is “if he wants you there”. Which has to mean participating in a street race, right?
The inevitable pre-race boombox’n’babes party is held in one of the most improbable locations imaginable – the courtyard of the UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office on King Charles Street, running west from Whitehall, the centre of government and, almost literally, a stone’s throw from the PM’s residence in Downing Street. Now, either security is really, really rubbish here, or the economy is such a parlous state that the government is quietly renting out its premises for illegal raves.
The race commences, courtesy of Rita Ora, in the august confines of King Charles Street (which runs parallel to Downing Street), through the arched entrance and out onto Whitehall.
Piling improbability on improbability, the cars race north on Whitehall itself – possibly the most policed and secure area in the city.
Until a few years ago, you rarely saw Whitehall on-screen, except in back-projection as Bond was driven to MI6 HQ, but more recently it’s become a hive of activity. Jim (Cillian Murphy) wandered past an overturned double-decker bus here in 28 Days Later…, followed by a helicopter chase in 28 Weeks Later…, hundreds of masked demonstrators in V For Vendetta and James Bond (Daniel Craig) on foot in Skyfall.
Bypassing Trafalgar Square, they’re soon scooting through hordes of black cabs and tourists in Piccadilly Circus and along Coventry Street toward Leicester Square.
At this point, the streets become pretty unfamiliar to Londoners as once again, Liverpool takes over, with the cars racing each other along Water Street and Dale Street.
Having seen off every police vehicle in the city, Toretto and Letty eventually grind to a halt on another empty lot alongside the Thames in front of the shell of the old, and still empty, Battersea Power Station.
Toretto reveals to the deeply amnesiac Letty that he knows her from times past, before Shaw turns up and matching red dots from hidden sniper rifles oblige both guys to back down.
By the time Hobbs gets to investigate the coach garage, Shaw is long gone, but a clue points them toward a NATO base at ‘Lusitania, Spain’, where the last remaining component Shaw needs to complete his MacGuffin machine is temporarily stored.
The ‘Spanish’ base is actually Bentwaters Parks, a former US airforce base at Rendlesham, in Suffolk.
There’s the sudden realisation that Shaw is intending to attack not the secure base, but the convoy as the component is moved out.
The spectacular set-piece attack on the convoy is back in the Canary Islands, where Shaw emerges in a seven-ton, customised Chieftain tank, souped up for the production to drive at 60mph – twice as fast as the original tank's top speed.
The stretches of road are Autopista TF-1, east of Las Cristianos, on Tenerife; and the GC-2 motorway, in the section between El Pagador and Santa María de Guía, in the north of Gran Canaria.
On the GC-2 is the Puente de Silva, the dizzyingly tall viaduct where Toretto makes the audacious mid-air rescue of Letty.
Although Shaw is finally captured, he reveals his trump card – he’s holding Mia captive. In the jawdroppingly extended finale, Shaw attempts to make his getaway by driving aboard a plane as it’s taking off from what appears to be the world’s longest runway.
I hardly need to add that eventually the plane goes up in a spectacular ball of flames while the good guys escape.
The unfeasibly long runway is Bovingdon Airfield, a former RAF facility at Bovingdon, a couple of miles south of Hemel Hempstead, Hertfordshire. The airfield was previously seen in a clutch of classic World War II films, including The War Lover, 633 Squadron, Battle Of Britain and Mosquito Squadron.
The postscript finds everyone happily pardoned, and Toretto back at his Los Angeles home, 722 East Kensington Road in Echo Park, seen in the very first of the series, The Fast And The Furious, way back in 2001.