Fast And Furious 7 | 2015
- DIRECTOR |
- James Wan
Even at episode 7, the series shows no sign that it’s running out of steam as director James Wan throws everything at the screen, and it even survives the sad death of star Paul Walker halfway through production.
The story is based in Los Angeles with apparent forays to ‘Azerbaijan’ and Abu Dhabi. While the capital of the UAE is real enough, there’s no Caucasus, but you might be forgiven for not noticing there is quite a lot of Atlanta.
F&F7 follows directly on from the teaser ending to F&F6. When the team blew up megavillain Owen Shaw, they forgot to check if he had an older, and even badder, brother who looks like Brit hardman Jason Statham. Big mistake.
Deckard Shaw (Statham) is on their case and looking for revenge.
After free pardons all round for bringing down Shaw Minor, the members of Toretto’s informal new family have been able to return to their homes.
Still suffering from amnesia, Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) proves memory loss has not affected her driving skills at a Race Wars meeting, filmed in the southern California desert at Lancaster, on Route 138 about 70 miles north of Los Angeles.
Brian O’Conner (Paul Walker) is settling down to a quiet family life, dropping his young son of at a suburban elementary school.
You might reasonably have assumed this to be in LA but, after decades of Hollywood’s backyard standing in for just about every urban area in the USA, tireless work by state film commissions to attract productions, has turned the tables. Fast And Furious 7 was based at the Atlanta Media Campus & Studios, Norcross in Gwinnett County, northeast of Atlanta, Georgia. The city has of course also been hosting the Hunger Games franchise too, since Catching Fire.
The old home of Dom Toretto (Vin Diesel), though, remains the real deal, 722 East Kensington Road in Echo Park, as seen in the previous films. A mysterious parcel from Japan explodes and destroys the house but, as you might have guessed, that was all CGI and the home is still standing.
Toretto collects Han’s body and returns him for a funeral in ‘Los Angeles’, where the solemnities are monitored by a sinister-looking car with blacked out windows. Far from LA, the service is being held in Oakland Cemetery, 248 Oakland Avenue SE, Atlanta. Incidentally, Oakland Cemetery is the last resting place of one of Atlanta’s most famous natives, Margaret Mitchell, author of Gone With The Wind.
This is a Fast & Furious movie so even a sombre funeral is likely to end in a car chase, at which point the action reverts to the real LA, with vehicles soon barrelling across the 6th Street Bridge and through the familiar industrial area southeast of downtown.
At this point the shadowy ‘Mr Nobody’ (Kurt Russell) appears and offers Toretto a deal and a mission. Yes, it’s MacGuffin time.
Toretto is whisked off to the ‘Covert Operations Base, El Segundo’, where Mr N asks him to retrieve ‘God’s Eye’, the ultimate techie surveillance system, now in the possession of a hacker known only as Ramsey, who’s been kidnapped by international terrorist Mose Jakande (Djimon Hounsou).
In return for retrieving the device, he’s willing to allow Toretto to use it to track down the murderous Deckard.
The ‘El Segundo’ base is Fort Gillem, a United States Army military base on the southeast edge of Atlanta in Forest Park. Opened in 1941 as an adjunct to nearby Fort McPherson, it used to house the United States Army Criminal Investigation Command (surely deserving its own TV series – USA:CIC), until it was closed down in 2011.
Assuming a positive response, Nobody has already recruited Toretto’s old crew – saving time on the ‘reassembling the team’ montage, and they’re off on a mission to rescue Ramsey from somewhere in the ‘Caucasus Mountains’ of ‘Azerbaijan’.
F&F7 has some major set pieces far removed from its modest roots as an indie roadracing film, and the first epic sequence involves the method by which a fleet of cars needs to be delivered to an inaccessible mountain road. Yes, parachute them in, of course.
Amazingly, that’s not CGI but a real stunt as the five cars back out of the C-130 cargo plane one by one and plummet dizzyingly to earth. OK, the phenomenal precision just might have been faked – the drop was filmed with the transporter plane taking off from Coolidge Airfield to release the cars above the much more feasible open spaces of the Arizona desert.
The touchdown was filmed separately, with the vehicles being suspended several feet above the ground on pulleys, racing their engines and able to hit the ground running at full speed.
The frantic chase along treacherously winding mountain roads to access the coach in which Ramsey is being held, is on Hwy 50 at Pikes Peak and around Monarch Pass in the Rocky Mountains, about 70 miles west of Colorado Springs.
Cleverly, this was a second unit stunt team, and the main actors were filmed on stages back in Atlanta.
More than 230 cars were involved the production, the write-offs being crushed to prevent the film company getting sued if a ‘pre-loved’ stunt car were to be sold and involved in an accident. Petrolheads will weep to know that several black Mercedes-Benzes, a Ford Crown Victoria, a Mitsubishi Montero, and more, all ended up as neat metal cubes in a local car crusher. So before you buy that bargain ‘Appeared in Fast And Furious 7’ set of wheels on eBay, you should double check its provenance carefully.
Sadly we’re now so spoiled by the use of digital effects that we may not gasp in as much awe as we should at O’Conner’s escape from the bus teetering on the brink of a cliff. There seems to be a little nod toward the original The Italian Job, as well as the ending of Steven Spielberg’s Duel with the inevitable catastrophic fall.
Astonishingly this whole sequence, including the desperate run along the coach roof, Letty’s car spinning perilously close to the drop, and the coach’s plunge, was a real stunt filmed in the quarry at the end of Reeves Parkway and Rum Creek Parkway, off Rock Quarry Road, in Stockbridge, southeast of Atlanta.
OK, the coach was secured with a steel girder, Letty’s car tethered with cable and Paul Walker’s stunt double was wearing a (digitally removed) harness, but it’s still a damned impressive feat which took a full week to set up and film.
Ramsey, you’ll be amazed to discovered, turns out to be, not a bespectacled nerd but a hot chick (Nathalie Emmanuel), who reveals that she’s mailed the crucial device to a friend in Abu Dhabi. Well, why not?
Following the trend of exotic destinations providing healthy incentives in return for travelogue-style publicity (remember the company ‘product’ in Transformers: Age Of Extinction suddenly being moved to the “China facility”?), the film is soon advertising the sun-drenched pleasures of the United Arab Emirates.
The team settles comfortably into Abu Dhabi’s vast and luxurious five-star Emirates Palace Hotel, West Corniche Road on the beachfront.
The MacGuffin has been sold to a prince who lives in – wouldn’t you know it – one of those nearby photogenic landmark Etihad Towers, the five-building complex that virtually defines the Abu Dhabi skyline.
No problem, Toretto and co. have soon wangled invitations to a party in one of the towers’ penthouse, and thus get the chance to rescue the gizmo from the Lykan HyperSport into which it’s been unwittingly installed, stashed sadly in the penthouse’s vault.
The Lykan is a real car, one of only seven made, retailing for over $3 million – which includes the diamonds in its headlights. And, yes, that is one of those seven in the mouthwatering close-ups but, sensibly, for the action sequences, five fibreglass copies were made.
Alas, without a party invite we’re unlikely to know what a real Etihad Towers penthouse looks like. The one seen in the film is a set, built like Hobbs’ glass walled office and other interiors, in the Atlanta studio.
When the only option turns out to be making off with the whole car, there’s the opportunity for the HyperSport to crash through the penthouse window and glide through the air into the neighbouring tower. Twice.
No, the car didn’t really make that leap. 40-foot-tall glass and steel sections of the towers were reproduced on the Atlanta soundstage, although windows really were temporarily removed from the prestigious buildings for filming.
When Shaw and Jakande team up to retrieve the God’s Eye device, the crew retires to home turf in LA to prepare for all-out war.
As a deadly predator drone is unleashed to track down and eliminate Toretto’s family band, there’s a mix of downtown LA and downtown Atlanta.
In LA, the drone prowls the skies above the 6th Street Bridge, the LA River channel and the Disney Concert Hall, before bringing down the microwave tower atop the AT&T Switching Center, 420 South Grand Avenue.
In Atlanta, the action centres around around Marietta Street, Farlie Street and Wall Street near the CNN Center.
The parking garage roof on which Toretto and Shaw face each other in an old-school street fight was a rooftop on Decatur Street at Peachtree Center Avenue SE opposite the Natural Science Center and overlooked by Georgia State University’s Langdale Hall.
The rooftop attacked by the helicopter is the vacant AT&T parking garage a couple of miles north at the southeast corner of Spring Street NW and 4th Street which, despite appearances, is – for the moment – still standing.
The melancholy epilogue, with the crew bidding goodbye to Brian O’Conner and his family on the beach, was filmed at Malibu, with Paul Walker’s brother Cody standing in for the late actor.