"I knew in that moment that this movie had been pitched to the exact frequency of my own personal happiness."
It wasn't until 2010's The A-Team film remake that I admitted to myself that I was, in fact, quite a fan of action movies. I saw the film in the comfort of my own home on a bootleg DVD, nestled in my home entertainment surround-sound system. Somewhere around the three-quarter mark, I realized that I was enjoying myself immensely, and that all the loud noises and silly stunts and obviously-pulled-from-the-original catchphrases added up to an exciting viewing experience I could no longer pretend to disdain. It was that newfound understanding of my own personal tastes that convinced me to see 2011's Fast Five in a theater on a not-quite date in college. Six years later, The Fate of the Furious, (the eighth installment of the Fast and Furious franchise) hits all those action movie sweet spots and more.
For a franchise that's been steadily outdoing itself for a decade and a half, it's hard to imagine what more The Fate of The Furious could possibly offer to audiences. The answer is EVERYTHING. Even after Furious 7 dropped cars out of a plane and drove them through multiple skyscrapers, Dominic Toretto and his crew still managed to outdo themselves. The clear objective of this film was to be exciting, frivolous fun. Close examination would probably reveal hundreds of plot holes, but who cares about that when A SUBMARINE IS CHASING CARS ACROSS AN ICY TUNDRA?!
The previous 16 years of world-building is the film's best asset. Like Captain America: Civil War before it, this story could only exist because of all the groundwork laid by the previous films. Everything from Letty's convenient amnesia, to changing character relationships comes back around and culminates in what was easily the single best viewing experience of my lifetime. That experience was immeasurably heightened by Bloomberg's extensive analysis of the earlier films in the franchise: a meticulous breakdown of the franchises' favourite tropes, crutches and themes.
Of course there are still critiques to be made. Firstly, with Paul Walker's death before the release of the last film, this one was set to be the first in the franchise without a white man in the main cast. Unfortunately, Scott Eastwood has stepped in to replace Walker as the straight man to the sprawling cast's various jokers. While his performance is serviceable, it didn't add anything that would have been missed without him.
Secondly, WHO DECIDED THAT JASON STATHAM AND THE ROCK SHOULDN'T PUNCH EACH OTHER?! Their fist fight is teased from the second they step onscreen together to the moment it's clear they've become unlikely allies. While the evolution of their relationship is a logical step for the franchise, how do you cast two of the world's biggest action stars opposite each other and not have them fight each other?!? It was a total missed opportunity. Or rather, it was a rude way to create anticipation for their since announced spinoff film.
And speaking of missed opportunities for a fight, Charlize Theron's Cipher has nothing to do in this film but look cute and be devious. Considering that Theron is a highly qualified action star in her own right (Atomic Blonde more than proves her mettle) I was expecting a showdown between her and Michelle Rodriguez the likes of which we saw in the 5th and 7th films. Considering that the central conflict of the film is Dominic Toretto's changing loyalty, it seems like a logical place for the story to go, but apparently the writers apparently didn't agree with me.
The single best part of the film however was the big reveal. Cipher is able to sway Dominic's loyalty against his crew by divulging that she has kidnapped none other than Elena Neves, The Rock's former partner and Dom's ex-girlfriend during the years Letty was presumed dead. And you guessed it, THIS BITCH HAD HIS BABY. I knew in that moment that this movie had been pitched to the exact frequency of my own personal happiness. I SCREAMED. I literally screamed in the cinema. I'm pretty sure I swore a handful of times too. I pride myself on seeing these kinds of twists coming from a mile away, and I did guess that Cipher was holding a mother and child captive, I just assumed it was Dom's sister and her son. I have never been so excited to be wrong in my life. It was truly transcendent in its effectiveness.
In the end, there's a lot to credit the film. After all this time, it's still one of the highest grossing franchises of all time and manages to remain quietly diverse, disproving the lie that diverse films don't make any money. I hope this movie wins an Oscar and I hope this franchise never ends.