This post is basically one big spoiler. If you don’t want to know what happens to Paul Walker’s character at the end of “Furious 7,” stop reading.
“Furious 7” was franchise fixture Paul Walker’s last movie; he died in a car crash in November 2013 during a break from filming. Once producers, director James Wan and the cast decided to move forward with the movie, using body doubles and computer-generated magic to finish Walker’s scenes, one huge and divisive question remained: What should happen to his character, the lawman-turned-fugitive Brian O’Conner?
[Paul Walker died while filming ‘Furious 7.’ How did other movies handle the sudden loss of a star?]
Fans immediately began debating the pros and cons of the two most likely outcomes, although anyone could see the flaws with both choices.
The first possibility was retirement. Brian had come a long way over the course of 14 years, and with a wife, a son and a daughter on the way, it wouldn’t seem at all strange for a guy to want to pursue less risky hobbies. The problem? This isn’t just any guy we’re talking about. This is adrenaline junkie Brian O-freaking-Conner. And besides, his crew, led by best bro Dom (Vin Diesel), isn’t just a team of speed racers. They’re a family, and you can’t just abandon your family.
That left another option. Brian could die in some tremendously heroic way, nobly giving up his own life for, say, his wife or son or best buddy. But that seemed tasteless, not to mention heartless. Walker’s death was tragic enough without seeing it play out again in a similar way on screen.
This was quite a dilemma for the rewrite team. The stakes were high, and over the course of watching “Furious 7,” they only get higher. Reality merges with fiction (especially if you’re on the lookout for body doubles and CGI, to which I say: Don’t bother). A pang of sadness might hit the first time Brian shows up on screen. As usual, he performs one dangerous stunt after another, because that’s what these movies are all about: a few guys cheating death in the most stylish ways imaginable. And we root for Brian to survive, confusing our brains into thinking, if just for a moment, that the man behind the character might survive too.
So it’s with joy (and, okay, a few tears) I can say that the ending of “Furious 7” turns out to be pretty close to perfect. Rather than adhere to the tenets of the franchise — being as over-the-top and absurdly kinetic as possible — the movie brings us back down to Earth. Brian retires, ostensibly, although the film doesn’t hide what we all know. Instead, it breaks the fourth wall by admitting that, yes, Walker has died, which creates an opportunity to pay him tribute.
Here’s what happens:
After the final action-packed set piece, the movie finds its heroes on a beach. The whole crew is there, from Ludacris’s Tej to Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) and Dom, and they all look on as Brian, his wife Mia (Jordana Brewster) and son play in the sand. We never hear Brian say he’s retiring; instead, we see his morose team talking about how “things will be different” from here on out.
After a few moments, Dom gets up to leave without saying goodbye. He doesn’t get far though. As he’s driving away, Brian catches up to him, scolds him for his Irish farewell and, in a throwback to the ending of the first movie, revs up for a race.
Then there’s a montage of snippets from the previous films, including a look back at Walker with bleached hair and a babyface, and a scene from “Fast Five” with the whole crew gathered in a circle while Dom toasts to his famiglia. By the time the camera cuts back to the pair’s final race, we aren’t seeing Dom’s last dance with Brian; we’re watching Diesel say goodbye to a guy he really considered a brother.
Dom’s insistence on talking about his family has turned into sort of a joke. And yet, there’s a sense that the actor delivering the monologues might make the same speeches in real life. Diesel has been open about his heartbreak following Walker’s death. He named his daughter Pauline, and those that follow the actor on social media know that he posts periodically about missing his friend, who he calls Pablo. He posted this photo on Instagram last year with the caption, “Fast Seven company move back to LA… Where the brotherhood began. Pablo…”
As the movie wraps up, we see Dom and Brian racing from above and, at a fork in the road, Dom drives one way while Brian drives another. It’s a very literal way to end things, but it’s also refreshingly understated. Subtlety has never been the franchise’s strong suit. For once, a “Fast” movie went the simplest route, and it turns out to be the most powerful way to go.