Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 13 August 2020

Furious 7: Film buffs and VIPs get to see what all the fuss has been about

It takes 70 minutes, but Abu Dhabi looks glorious the moment it appears on the screen in Furious 7. A review of the city's role in the film from the first screening in the Middle East.
A handout movie still of ‘Furious 7’ showing Paul Waker and Vin Diesel. Courtesy Universal Pictures
A handout movie still of ‘Furious 7’ showing Paul Waker and Vin Diesel. Courtesy Universal Pictures

The National was at Yas Mall’s Vox Cinemas on Wednesday evening for the VIP Middle East premiere of the eagerly anticipated Furious 7, the latest chapter in the popular cars and action franchise which was partly shot in Abu Dhabi with the cooperation of local production partners twofour54.

It may not have been quite the glittering global premiere we’d initially hoped for – that honour eventually fell to LA - but that didn’t stop the palpable excitement as a host of local industry insiders, government dignitaries and eager film buffs packed into the cinema’s cavernous Vox Max screen to finally see what all the fuss has been about.

Following a brief introduction from Abu Dhabi Film Commission’s production and location coordinator Sameer Al Jaberi, the lights finally went down after what seemed like an eternity since the Furious 7 team first starting cameras rolling in the capital way back in 2013, almost dead on time at just after 8pm.

Abu Dhabi’s starring role was given quite a build up, with a supporting cast of scenes set in London, LA, Tokyo, Dominican Republic and Azerbaijan warming the audience up before finally, around the 70-minute mark, Nathalie Emmanuel’s character, Megan Ramsey, revealed she’d posted a vital speed disk to her friend in Abu Dhabi – a revelation that had the audience in cheers of ecstasy as it braced itself for the city’s appearance.

They didn’t have to wait long. Just seconds later our heroes were cruising through the desert in a selection of cars most of us can only dream of, with locals driving camels down the side of the road offering a nice juxtaposition of the ancient and the modern. The sweeping desert vistas were stunning – worthy of a nod to Arri’s impressive Alexa XT and the Red Epic 4K movie cameras for the tech heads out there. Finally, the convoy reached the city in a breathtaking shot where the capital’s skyline rises majestically from the dunes, and we were also treated to some stunning aerial shots of the city.

The gang check into Emirates Palace – Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) and his crew may have started out as a team of illegal street racers in the first movie, but evidently their disposable income has increased incrementally along with the stars who play them since then – and we’re treated to some nice scenes of the hotel’s pool and beach, along with some unfeasibly attractive hotel guests, before the already famous shot of the team descending Emirates Palace’s steps in full evening wear.

The reason for their attire, it turns out, is that they’re heading to a party hosted by a billionaire Jordanian prince in his Etihad Towers penthouse, where he also keeps his eye-wateringly expensive supercar in which the vital disk has inconveniently been installed.

This, of course, is where THAT stunt takes place, in which Diesel crashes the car out of the window of one tower and gatecrashes a party a few floors below in the tower opposite. We don’t want to give too much away, but the stunt is even more impressive in the movie than the version we’ve already seen in the trailer, though you may find that difficult to believe.

Other cameos come from a disused factory in which Jason Statham’s bad guy, Deckard Shaw, is hiding out – we think this may be at Abu Dhabi Port, but we’re not certain - and the row of car workshops at the end of Sheikh Zayed Road. We’re not sure if the Al Hamra Welding Shop is a real location or not, but if it is – congratulations, you’re about to be world famous.

With that, Abu Dhabi’s starring role is over, having clocked in at just under the 30-minute mark by our counting, so not far short of a quarter of the film’s rip roaring 137 minutes, and the team head back to LA for the final battle.

The film’s final few minutes are dedicated to a montage in memory of its co-star Paul Walker, who died in an unrelated car crash while the movie was shooting. I’ve never really been an avid fan of the franchise, but I have to say it was a poignant gesture, and a fitting way to close the movie.

As we left the theatre, the queues were already forming for the movie’s 11pm public debut, so if you’re watching it now, we hope you’re enjoying it. It’s one of the biggest, brashest, most action-packed, stunt-filled, ever-so-slightly-silly adrenalin-fests we’ve had the pleasure of watching, and it has global box office smash written all over it.

So congratulations to the producers, to the team at twofour54 Abu Dhabi, and to the city itself – the eyes of the world are truly upon you.

cnewbould@thenational.ae

Updated: April 2, 2015 04:00 AM

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