“If one day the speed kills me, don’t cry. Because I was smiling.” Paul Walker
I was very excited to be invited by Vox Cinemas to attend my first film premiere this week. The invitation was to the VIP Middle East premiere of the much publicised Fast & Furious 7, the latest and last instalment of the action movie series starring beefy Vin Diesel and the late Paul Walker, screened on Wednesday evening. With some of the film’s action taking place here in Abu Dhabi, in association with local film production company twofour54, anticipation had been very high here in the capital.
The premiere, which took place at the newest Vox cinema in Yas Mall, may not have been a glittering Hollywood style affair like the Los Angeles global premiere and none of the stars were actually present, but we did walk the red carpet and the local paparazzi were out in force, so I was still impressed. There was also three super cars parked in the mall for those who like such things to drool over.
After drinks and canapés in the Vox Gold lounge, we all took our seats in the Vox MAX theatre with its enormous 23.5 metre screen and Dolby Amos surround sound, the perfect venue for an action movie. While we munched on our complimentary popcorn, the film was introduced by Sameer Al Jaberi, production and location coordinator from the Abu Dhabi Film Commission. The enthusiastic crowd had to wait quite a while for Abu Dhabi to appear on-screen as the action first traveled around the globe from Los Angeles, London, Tokyo, Dominican Republic to Azerbaijan before Diesel and his multi cultural crew touched down in the desert, which received a round of applause from the captivated audience.
The cast rolled into the capital in a convoy of super cars via a journey through the desert with the obligatory shot of camels by the side of the road. As the city skyline appeared from the dunes, Diesel and crew arrived at the majestic Emirates Palace Hotel to the sensationalised backdrop of bikini clad women strolling past the entrance, definitely not the norm here. Lots of nice shots of the hotel’s beach followed as the crew made plans to carry out their mission to track down the missing God’s Eye disk. The disk had been randomly posted to Abu Dhabi by Ramsey, the techy female hostage that the gang had previously rescued in Azerbaijan after reversing their cars off an airplane (yep, there was even steering mid-air and all landing intact via parachutes), avoided heavy machine gun and missile fire, jumped from the top of a cliff from a falling bus and even driving off a mountain and surviving, all very far-fetched and the film has definitely had the full Hollywood fantasy and stunt treatment!
The team of criminal street racers scrubbed up very well and donned dinner suits and posh dresses to attend a penthouse party hosted by a billionaire prince from Jordan who had purchased the missing disk and hidden it in a super car, of course. Diesel’s Dominic Toretto character ends up driving this red beast straight out of the window at the top Etihad Towers Hotel here in Abu Dhabi. Then equally unbelievably he continues to fly the car through the air as well as through the next two glass towers while he and co-passenger Walker remain unscathed, not a spoiler honestly as it’s the scene from the trailer.
The finale takes place back in LA with lots more street car racing scenes, fighting, dodging bullets, grenades you get the gist and there’s even a killer drone. (Spoiler Alert) Walker’s character, ex-cop Brian o’Conner made it to the end of the film which I was not expecting as I assumed that due to his tragic death from an extraneous car crash during the filming schedule, he would die at some point in the movie, every time he had a dangerous scene I was thinking that’s it, game over. His real life early demise clearly cast an understandable gloomy shadow over proceedings and I was unaware until after the film that his brothers, Cody and Caleb, were brought in as stand-ins to complete the film, as well the use of old footage and audio.
The final scene in this last chapter of the Fast & Furious franchise is a very fitting and moving dedication to Walker ending with him and Diesel going their separate ways speeding off down different roads at a crossroads. A poignant montage of clips of Walker from the previous six movies plays set against a voice over monologue by Diesel, the film ended with the simple words ‘For Paul’ flashing up on the otherwise blank screen, all very sad.
Jason Statham’s characterisation of bad guy Deckard Shaw, who is seeking justice for his hospitalised brother was very British and I found some of his scenes so cringy, really as if he could take down The Rock (CIA’s Hobbs) and Vin Diesel. Dwayne Johnson aka The Rock was absolutely huge, had some super cheesy one liners and breaking out of his plaster cast hulk style was a step too far for me and Kurt Russell has aged almost beyond recognition.
If you are a Fast and Furious fan, like over the top action or just like brash muscly men in vests, fast cars and unbelievable auto stunts, chases and fighting then this is the perfect movie for you. Personally, I found some of the incredibly close-up fast-moving action shots hard to focus on and lost a bit of what was going on at times, but it was great to see Abu Dhabi on the big screen again. It seems Hollywood directors like our desert home with its range of varied locations combined with fantastic weather and I’m sure there’s much more of that to come in future productions.
All views are my own. Unless otherwise stated all photos © Jo Brett 2015. All rights reserved.
Read more about Vox Cinemas at Yas Mall in my previous post Cinema Princess