How Furious 7’s Cargo Plane Drop Stunt Was Pulled Off
The cargo plane drop scene in Furious 7 is the movie’s centerpiece action sequence, and it took a considerable amount of work for filmmakers to achieve the elaborate stunt. The Fast and Furious franchise has ensured that each installment upped the scale of the action to increasingly absurd levels that often defy logic or physics. Fast Five dragged a 9,000-pound vault around the streets of Rio like a wrecking ball, and Fast and Furious 6 offered a “cars vs cargo plane” finale that would, in reality, require a 30km runway. For 2015’s Furious 7 though, director James Wan’s first idea for an action sequence was to drop cars out the back of a plane.
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The narrative reason for Dom and his crew to drive their souped-up cars backward out of a cargo plane is ostensibly to rescue Nathalie Emmanuel’s Ramsey, a hacktivist who’s created the God’s Eye (a computer program that can find someone anywhere on the planet, and Furious 7’s MacGuffin). The team needs to ambush the villain’s convoy to free Ramsey, along a stretch of road in the Caucasus Mountains that is impenetrable from the ground. In true ridiculous Fast and Furious fashion, the solution is to parachute the cars and their drivers onto the road.
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Furious 7’s filmmakers rose to the challenge set by James Wan, with stunt veteran Spiro Razatos (Captain America: Civil War, X-Men: First Class) and his team tasked with coordinating the cargo plane drop. Initially, the producers expected the stunt sequence to be realized by CGI special effects. Razatos, however, eager to make it feel as authentic as possible for the audience, convinced the producers that the stunt could be done for real. As a result, Furious 7’s cargo plane stunt actually dropped real cars for the set-piece.
While the sequence inevitably contains CGI to insert the actors into the action, Furious 7 did drop real cars from planes. Filming for Furious 7’s cargo plane drop stunt took place in the skies above the Arizona desert. The cars were dropped from two Lockheed C-130 Hercules, flying at 12,000 ft, dropping two cars each. A team of 3 skydivers wearing helmet cameras both led and followed the cars out, with the first skydiver having to jump from the ramp just before being hit by the exiting car. Additional cameras were attached to the cars, the plane, on the ground, and in a helicopter circling the action, with 10 cameras in total. The cars were equipped with parachutes and GPS to both control their fall, and then to land safety in the desert. Inevitably with such an ambitious stunt, there were a few mishaps with the cars. One car’s parachute didn’t deploy, resulting in total demolition. Another was unintentionally dragged by its parachute towards the freeway.
Footage of Vin Diesel and the Fast & Furious cast was filmed on the ground. Their cars were rigged on a 360-degree gimbal surrounded by a blue screen to replicate the free-fall in a safe environment. For the landing of the cars in the movie (filmed in the Colorado mountains), the cars were suspended on a wire between two cranes. Using a pulley system, the cars were dropped six to ten feet off the ground, with the stunt drivers accelerating their engines to 40 miles an hour before they hit. Overall, Furious 7’s practical stunts of the falling cars were a success and a lot of the footage captured ended up in the movie (though some shots were sped up or enhanced by CGI). The whole sequence took months of preparation to achieve and lasts for less than five minutes onscreen. Notwithstanding this, it’s not only Furious 7’s standout action sequence, but also one of the best in The Fast Saga’s history.
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