The fifth installment of the torque and testosterone-fueled “Fast and Furious” franchise – “Fast Five” – throttles into theaters this Friday, and the Vin Diesel-fronted vehicle promises to be the most fun you’ve had at the movies so far this year, as evidenced by the clip we teased you with last week.
Though it’s thoroughly badass, we couldn’t help but wonder if the bank vault heist we showcased is physically feasible under any circumstances, so we sent the video along to Phil Schewe, Chief Science Writer and spokesman for the American Institute of Physics. His thoughts about the Plausibility Factor of Vin and Paul Walker’s vault-toting plight? In a word: impossible. But does the suspension of disbelief make for massively fun cinema? Absolutely!
Phil’s play-by-play of the science behind the sequence is pretty entertaining stuff – so geek out with us, if you’re so inclined, and check what he had to say!
MTV NEWS: What are your initial thoughts, after viewing the clip?
PHIL SCHEWE: Even more incredible than the automobile heist is the look on Vin Diesel’s face – the meaningful look he gives the babe. That’s more hilarious than the broken laws of physics! [Laughs] Along with my current job, I’m also a playwright and an artist, so I understand the need to break rules – when you’re making movies, it doesn’t really matter, does it? If people buy the tickets, then it works!
But, first, even a reinforced Hummer can’t burst through a brick wall. Secondly, SUV’s are more dangerous – even to themselves – than other cars because of their high center of gravity. Going around an s-curve or something, the thing tips over! In the clip, those SUV’s are making 90-degree turns and making a right turn in the space of 20 feet, so they should tip over.
Once the van makes the hole in the wall, the vault – for one thing – is going be cemented down. But these two hauling cars, they each have, like, 500 horsepower. Horsepower is just what it sounds like – it means the physical power of a horse, and 500 horses seems like a lot (and if you have two cars that’s 1,000 horses), but even 1,000 horses could not pull a vault that must weigh, oh, 50,000 pounds along the ground! You would have trouble hauling that thing even if it were on wheels. It’s dragging friction, pulling a dead weight – you can’t do that.
MTV NEWS: And what about the bumpers of the cars – wouldn’t they just pull off with the force of hauling the vault?
SCHEWE: Yeah! Presumably, it’s attached to some pulling rig – the hauling bar they attach to the superstructure of the car, but – which would break first? The cars don’t even look that powerful! If they had two Hummers, that would be more believable. The bank vault isn’t going to fly apart, but how strong are those chains and how strong is the chassis of the car? Why don’t they rip apart?
MTV NEWS: What do you make of the next part – as they pull this vault along?
SCHEWE: Well, you’ve got this dead weight whipping along the street and they turn another one of these sharp turns and the vault goes through the lobby of an office building. First of all, it seems to be tumbling – if I look correctly – end over end. If that’s true, how is it still tied to the cars? Think about it – it was tied at the back end of the two cars, they’re tied to the front end of the vault. So how can the vault be turning end over end along the direction of motion without bringing the cars with it, or just glomming on to and breaking the chains?
At least, as the two cars turn the right angle and make a sharp turn, they show that much correctly – because the vault doesn’t just trail along behind the cars, the vault – like a water skier – swings way out to the side. But then what happens? It enters this building and it’s tearing through. Eventually, that chain and that vault should meet with the supporting pillars of that building. It should crash into the building and hit those supports and either snap the chain at that point or rip the support of the building out and the building should collapse. It’s impossible thing on top of impossible thing.
MTV NEWS: So there's no realistic way this heist could be achieved?
SCHEWE: The bank vault weighs ten times more than the cars – the horsepower in those engines just isn’t enough.
MTV NEWS: Even a Hummer? Or a Mack truck? Two Mack trucks?
SCHEWE: I don’t know what the horsepower of a Mack truck would be, but even that – what a fully-loaded 18-wheeler would carry using – I’m just inventing a number – 2,000 or 3,000 horsepower, even with that you could not pull a dead weight the size of that bank vault.
MTV NEWS: If you were going to try and pull off an operation such as this, where would you even begin?
SCHEWE: [Laughs] It’s 35 degrees of incredibleness! It’s so impossible, it’s like Spider-Man jumps 50 stories up to the top of a building, how does he do it? Well…it’s the movies! That’s all you can say!
Realism aside, pretty awesome action sequence, is it not? Tell us what you think of the physics of "Fast Five" in the comments section and on Twitter!