Real Life vs. the Movies: The Fast and the Furious

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For as over-the-top and thrill seeking as the Fast and Furious franchise has become, I’ll give the filmmakers credit for using as many practical effects to make their films as possible. The films are only comprised of about 10% CGI shots – contrary to what it may appear. Much of this CGI is also only used to finish background images and erase cables securing the actors, stunt people, and cars. Many moments in the film that you might not expect to be real, are at least partially not CGI.

However, while it is impressive that this over-the-top franchise has figured out a way to create most of their action sequences in real life, most of those action sequences would never actually happen in real life. Below we outline some of the most ridiculous action sequences that this franchise has brought to the big screen so far to see just how possible they would be in real life. Considering the physics and luck required to pull them all off, we’ve then assigned each of these sequences a possibility value. The higher the possibility value, the more likely the sequence could happen in real life with minimal changes. Let’s begin: 


Furious 7 – Parachuting Cars

how furious 7 dropped real cars from planes in its most ridiculous stunt yet

For many reasons, it may make sense to airdrop into enemy territory. Many times, that is the safest way, and it’s a useful tactic to catch your target off-guard. In Furious 7, that’s exactly what happens – but with cars. Dropping cars out of a plane may seem a bit unrealistic, but consider that armed forces have dropped vehicles, including tanks, from cargo planes for decades. However, it’s one thing to drop a heavily armed vehicle, properly packaged and prepared carefully out of a plane – it’s another thing to drop high performance automobiles, full of air-catching spoilers and wings and try and land them on a narrow mountain road.

This is one sequence that is, surprisingly, mostly real. The filmmakers did actually push the cars out of a plane and filmed them on their way down. It would be very difficult to actually land them down on an exact target (the road – in this case) but it is at least possible. The stunt team actually did this six times to get all the shots they needed. However, it didn’t always go exactly as planned. Sometimes the cars would catch a gust of wind, which would rip off body panels, creating a sail that would catch the wind and throw the car miles off course. So it is very unlikely that the crew could have jumped out of the plane in their cars and landed on target perfectly all together on the first shot, but it technically could happen.  

Real Life Possibility = 70% 

 


 

Fast & Furious – Tanker Truck Robbery 

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The opening of the fourth film features a tanker truck robbery that seems like it could only be possible in the world of the Fast and the Furious. While Vin Diesel and Michelle Rodriguez try to unhook each of the tanker trailers, a truck speeds up backwards to pull it away. It looks fast and dangerous – nothing that could be attempted in real life, right? For one, as soon as the trailers are released, they wouldn’t be easily controlled. Then you actually have to jump onto each of the trailers to unhook them one by one, while the lead tanker truck is trying its best to get away. One slip and you’d be road kill.

Immediately you have to assume that IF they actually performed this sequence in real life, it would have had to be at a drastically slower speed than what is on film. It turns out, that is exactly what happened. Michelle Rodriguez was actually on the tanker trailers (secured with a safety strap), which were travelling at 25 mph. So…yes, unhooking each tanker would be possible, technically. You would just have to have excellent balance, and leaping on and off a speeding car is beyond dangerous. For capturing each of the tankers, the filmmakers actually had a driver in each one who could steer it. The trucks running backwards to pick up the trailers was actual stunt driving too. Therefore, this one’s a split. Since it was actually performed in real life there’s some truth to the tactics, but the filmmakers had to rely on some tricks that wouldn’t be there in real life to get it done

Real Life Possibility = 50% 


Fast Five – Bank Vault Chase 

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In perhaps the craziest heist scene ever seen on film, the team doesn’t just pull off a robbery, they actually steal the vault/safe itself. Now, safe’s aren’t exactly light, so you’d need some serious power to get it moving. Good thing this franchise has a lot of fast cars, because that’s exactly what they use. It takes two Dodge Chargers to tow the safe out of the Police station (never mind that it was probably anchored in concrete, probably a couple feet into the ground) and then through the city to freedom. Lots of mayhem and destruction ensue.

Let’s do some math on this one. How much could that safe weigh? The filmmakers actually fit a modified pickup truck into the safe to assist in filming in some scenes, so it’s about 8’ cubed. Looking online, the largest safe I could find on the market with the weight listed was about an eighth of that volume, made of quarter inch thick steel, and weighed 3000 lbs. So 3000 x 8 = 24,000 lbs. A modern Ford F-350 can tow a maximum 12,000 lbs. So I suppose two cars is the miminum number, but the Ford’s towing capacity is based on a trailer…with wheels. A safe without wheels has this little thing called static friction to overcome – and there’s no way something so heavy could be easily controlled (driven around) without wheels, especially by two cars. More likely, once the safe started moving it would take the cars with it because they are so much lighter. Not to mention the cables and car frames themselves would have to be strong enough to withstand that type of abuse. This is a purely no-nonsense stunt.

Real Life Possibility = 0% 


Furious 7 – Skyscraper Jump 

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For the Fast and Furious franchise, even this sequence is a little out-there. In one of the craziest car moments ever seen in film, Vin Diesel jumps a car from one skyscraper to another. The car is the ultra-rare Lykan Hypersport. So rare that only seven of them have been built so far, and they are currently the third most expensive new car on the market (at $3.4 million a pop). So, I suppose that’s a good reason to try and steal one, but can it really jump between two buildings in mid air?

To accomplish this, the car would have to be going fast. The Lykan can get to 100 kph (62 mph) in 2.8 seconds, so it is plenty fast. Probably fast enough to get up to speed inside the first building. The two buildings appear to be about 4 or 5 car lengths apart when the camera moves to a side view of the action, yet in another cut, the buildings seem further apart. We’ll say it is a jumpable distance, and the car can actually get up to a fast enough speed to make the jump. However, the problem with this stunt occurs when the car crashes through the glass, which would reduce some of its momentum and could cause it to start spinning in the air. It will be rapidly dropping in elevation and flipping nose first. As it is falling it would have to penetrate the other building at the exact right angle of entry to pass between two floors through glass. A bit too high or low, or at the wrong angle and the car catches, stopping its forward momentum and sending it plummeting below.

Real Life Possibility = 10% 


Fast and Furious 6 – Runway Chase 

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The climax of the 6th entry into the series is a 13 minute long action sequence that involves chasing a plane as it is trying to take off. That’s right, the plane is departing on the runway for nearly that entire period of time. Just how long could that runway be? Since the cast is split up, either on the runway chasing the plane or inside it fighting, you could argue that all of the action we see is taking place simultaneously, rather than concurrently. Still, the sequence would still be about 4 or 5 minutes long if everything in an out of the plane was happening at the same time.

The plane itself is an Antontov An-124 Ruslan, which is one of the largest planes in the world. Due to its size and the weight of its cargo, it does need a lot of runway to take off – according to the manufacturer, it needs a minimum 8,270 foot runway to take off from when fully loaded. The plane also needs to reach 172 mph to take off. This sequence is supposed to happen in Spain, and the longest runway in Spain is 15,807 feet long. Let’s give the film the benefit of the doubt and figure that the action inside and outside is happening concurrently – so the plane has about 4 minutes minimum to travel 15807 feet. That’s an average of at least 44.85 mph – not nearly fast enough to reach take-off speed. At the end of the sequence, the plane does lift off, so at that point it would have to be going 172 mph at a minimum. Yet there are cars racing besides it. The cars in Fast and Furious are typically souped up and fast, but I don’t think what looks like a fairly standard army-spec Mercedes Benz G-class would be able to go that fast. This sequence has way too much wrong with it to be possible, except for the Antontov plane being able to take off from Spain’s longest runway.

Real Life Possibility = 10%


The Fate of the Furious – New York Zombie Car Attack 

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In the newest Fast and Furious movie, the baddies use computer hacking to take control of cars on the streets of New York City to assist them in stopping a motor barricade. In the film we see hundreds of cars moving in unison together at speed to surround and eventually overwhelm the high security limousine. At one point, cars are even falling from the sky, driving out of a parking garage several stories up and landing in the street as additional obstacles.

Unlike many Fast and Furious action sequences, this one appears to utilize a ton of CGI. That is clue number one that it would be nearly impossible to pull off in real life. Yes, electronic systems in modern cars are surprisingly susceptible to computer hacking. There’s been tests to prove this over the last few years. However, all cars don’t yet have the capability to drive by wire. Meaning while it may be possible for your car to be hacked, they wouldn’t actually be able to drive it in a coordinated fashion as shown in the film. We may be moving in the direction of most cars having the technology installed for autonomous driving, but currently that technology is only available in a select few production vehicles. Many of the cars shown being controlled in this scene are older models. If they have the capability of the ignition being wired to the car’s computer, they certainly don’t have the steering wheel connected to anything. Furthermore, the scene shows many people still inside their cars. If their car started to take off suddenly, they could grab the wheel and make it change direction. This would make it very difficult to maintain an army of cars moving in unison. So, in all, car hacking is possible, but not nearly to the extent used in this sequence – maybe a couple cars on the street could be controlled in the manner used, but not all of them.

Real Life Possibility = 20%