Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Review

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Wesley Morris Reviews 'Fast 7'

"… And in the seventh part, they refused to die. Still. It’s true that two early scenes in Furious 7 occur at cemeteries. But by the second trip, Roman (Tyrese Gibson) makes everyone in his government-sponsored car club promise that this is it for graveyards, and it is. Two characters go tumbling down a mountain in an armored car, and a couple of scenes later are chatting on a beach. When one speeding car needs to deposit its hotly pursued passenger into another speeding car, the transfer requires each vehicle to swerve into a parallel formation so that the body can slip from one window through the other. (It took longer to type that than it did to watch.) A physicist might say of the deposited, “See you at the morgue.” But physics are to the Fast & Furious movies what term limits are to dictators: something to be flouted. That transfer is but one of the dozen or so incidents in this movie that drop your jaw, steal your breath, and make you want to say “I do.”
Characters, of course, have died in these films. They just don’t stay dead. And there’s a glorious soapiness to some of that. Furious 7 has Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) standing over her own grave, struggling to remember all the driving and snarling she’d previously done. She tells Dom (Vin Diesel) she needs time for self-rediscovery, which would seem to entail relearning that this bald, muscle-bound man with the Anthony Quinn mumbles is her husband."

Wesley Morris is a great critic, one reason being that he puts so much more into a review than the average movie reviewer. Grantland, a now-defunct site where sportswriters and cultural experts could practice a more traditional long form journalism that is getting harder and harder to find, was the perfect place for Morris' drawn-out, multi-layered analysis, and it's a real shame that the website was discontinued. But questionable ESPN decisions aside, Morris' reviews stand out because they're a whole lot more than just a summary and reaction to a certain movie. He picks a distinct angle from which he decides to review a film, as seen by this 'Fast 7' review, in which he chooses to dissect the movie with a sharp focus on the late Paul Walker's character, and the emotionally resonant way in which he was retired from the series. Morris always does his research, and here he goes through the earlier movies in the saga, recalling the film-to-film transformation of Walker's Brian, so that when he tells us how moving Brian's decision to choose family over friends at the end was, the reader already has a fully fleshed out vision of that character to support the statement. Morris goes deeper than most critics, but he also keeps things light and entertaining. I love how he points out the fact that it takes so much longer to describe an action scene in writing than it takes to watch it on screen. And also, the 'Physics are to Fast and Furious movies what term limits are to dictators' line gave me a good chuckle. Ultimately, Morris can take you deep into a movie's backstory, analyze its characters, and also assess a film's relevancy in the modern world, all while making the reader laugh in the process.

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