ｒｙａｎ :]’s review published on Letterboxd:
Only Justin Lin could make the longest Fast movie feel 2 hours longer than it already is and leave me asking for more.
Not only does he hit the ground running with some incredibly respectful and forward-thinking retconning, but he knows how to balance the scales of character introspection and some of the most insane set pieces these films have ever seen flawlessly. Structurally this might be the most balanced Fast film to date, allowing for deeply emotional scenes to exist within or next to explosively invigorating ones without ever feeling even slightly out of place or superfluous. There are several asides and flashbacks between and with many characters in order for Lin to point this series in a powerful direction again, and each one feels purposeful and interesting, especially considering the arc this series has been going through as of late. I don’t think it’s controversial at all to say that Justin Lin is Fast, as he has directed some of the best the series has to offer (+1 now that this one is out), but a lot has happened since his final Fast 6. James Wan knocked it out of the park with some incredible camerawork, character moments, and one of the greatest endings to anything ever with Furious 7, but it’s difficult to see Hobbes and Shaw and especially F8 being cut from the same fabric as these thunderously sincere works of Lin’s past. There is a deep understanding for symbols of the Fast franchise as well, more overtly with characters like Cipher or things like the cross necklace, but even subtle things like the ’70 Charger and Corona beer. Lin makes many precise decisions here with how to present information and how to tie everything together, mainly with how tastefully he handles 7’s material and presentation chops and how much disdain he clearly holds for 8, allowing himself to present these characters and situations as meta for the first time without at all feeling ironic or snide. Are these characters invincible when faced with great danger time and time again? Do they really just suit up to crash cars into each other at the drop of a hat? Do these situations really need to get more out of hand in order for anyone involved to feel fulfilled? The answer is unequivocally yes, and Jakob hates this. This all plays into the central theme of reconciling with the past wherein Dom does the unthinkable (turning his back on family), but this time it actually works because of its respect for the franchise and characters to the point that literally emulating Tarkovsky in a scene feels impactful and necessary to relay emotional states and information beautifully.
Where it is incredibly clear that Lin understands how to handle the emotional core of these films, the action is also a big part of what makes these movies unique, and he has not faltered at structuring scenes interestingly at all. A small example of this can be found in a scene wherein the main objective is for Dom to talk to Queenie but, instead of a typical loud bar or smoky casino setting, they partake in a car chase that would’ve been the climax of the first two movies… like it’s nothing. Of course it’s still exhilarating and emotional, but I was just absolutely amazed how effortlessly information and feelings flow from this film in general because of scenes like that. The very first group action sequence eases us as well as the family into the explosive days of their past and foreseeable future, effectively setting up several plotlines that would come to a meaningful point in the end. Each subsequent action scene gets more and more insane and weighty as the film goes on, presenting some of the most exciting and purposeful action this series has yet seen. The final climax ties together Lin’s two biggest strengths as a director, his understanding of sincerity as well as the power of action, in such a moving and beautiful way that I really could not believe how delicately it was handled without sacrificing any feelings of danger or vigor. This makes the classic final cookout scene feel even more real, more grounded, because of the lengths they went to in creating something next-level in literally every way. Every Fast movie this references is respected immensely and is arguably strengthened by allowing such a lore heavy and contemplative film exist as the NINTH in one of the (if not THE) greatest original movie series of all time. Lin gives respect to every one of the previous films that deserves it, and even makes his debut (and my favorite) Tokyo Drift feel that much more impactful because of the inclusion of some key characters and how they interact in such a small way. Even in the face of an Earth-shattering end to the world as we know it wherein Jakob NEEDS to do the biggest job of all time in order to even get the attention of anyone familiar with the Fast family, Lin never shies away from including smaller scenes of reverence not only in order to appease fans but also to treat these characters and actors, whom he undoubtedly sees as family at this point, with the admiration and courtesy they deserve. Blowing up a huge jet with a bus? Dom hugs a member of his family? They’re the same as far as I’m concerned.
This is about all I can muster since my heart rate normalized after seeing my most hyped movie of the year so I can’t say much more than this that would make sense and/or not spoil it. I’m more than pleased to say Fast is back and better than ever and I cannot wait to see what the future holds, both for this franchise and this review when I edit it after a re-watch or two. Incredible.