Memorable blockbusters filmed on location in the emirates
Following the announcement that the upcoming Star Wars film has been shot in Abu Dhabi, we take a look at the films that feature the golden sands of the UAE.
Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol (2011) Who can forget the photograph of Tom Cruise, the world’s biggest movie star, calmly sitting atop the world’s tallest building? The image was intrinsic in showing the world just how insane the stunts of Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol were going to be. The Burj Khalifa sequence is the 2011 movie’s centrepiece, where Cruise’s special operative Ethan Hunt and his ragtag team of on-the-run agents (among them Simon Pegg and Jeremy Renner) plan to sabotage a dirty deal. Things don’t quite go to plan, of course, resulting in Hunt performing a death-defying climb around the side of the tower. The sequence isn’t for those afraid of heights, as the stunt is done for real by Cruise himself – if you don’t feel like a chopper ride around Dubai, the film does provide the same fantastic view.
Fast & Furious 7 (due for release 2015) The sad news earlier this year about the death of Paul Walker – aka driving maverick Brian O’Conner – threw up the question as to whether or not the latest in the popular franchise – which had already started shooting in Abu Dhabi – would continue production, having been shut down ‘indefinitely’ for a period of time. Luckily, Universal pictures – and director James Wan – figured out a way of finishing the film, which also stars Vin Diesel, Jason Statham and Dwayne Johnson, by using Walker’s brothers as stand-ins for scenes the actor hadn’t yet shot. Throw into the mix some cutting-edge special effects, whereby Walker’s face will be mapped on to his doubles. Details are thin at the moment on how Abu Dhabi will be used in F&F7, as the plot hasn’t yet been released – but something tells us it’ll be a poignant sign-off for Walker, with the fast cars and ridiculously fun chase scenes we’ve come to expect from the franchise.
Syriana (2005) The 2005 thriller Syriana saw Dubai act as one of the backgrounds for the film’s globe-spanning story. Set in the world of petroleum politics, George Clooney stars as CIA operative Bob Barnes, leading an ensemble cast including Matt Damon and Jeffrey Wright. His storyline as Barnes saw him pursue targets in Iran (actually the desert landscape of Dubai), where he must stop the acquisition – and possible activation – of a dangerous new missile. Many twists, turns and double agents populate the space between Barnes and his goal. Who should he trust? Syriana was a complex movie; in weaving multiple storylines involving assassinations and heavyweight politics, the movie may have lost some viewers’ attention. Fortunately, its great central performances give it momentum – the movie earned George Clooney his first Oscar in the form of best supporting actor.
Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps (2010) In the sequel to the 1987’s Wall Street, Michael Douglas returned to the role that made him a household name. Finally released from prison, and having released a book called Is Greed Good? Gordon Gekko (Douglas) seeks to rebuild his once-great empire of insider trading and security fraud. To help him back to the top of the fiscal food chain is his son-in-law Jake (Shia LaBeouf), arranging a deal where he tries to reconcile a fraught father-daughter relationship between his new mentor and his fiancée, while getting a cut of Gekko’s riches. Money Never Sleeps is a masterclass in sneaky characters doing even sneakier things, but it’s also a showcase for the glamour of the life Gekko leads; parts of the movie were shot in the none-more-sophisticated Dubai, proving that a life watching numbers stream by on a screen can also be very exotic indeed.
Star Wars Episode VII (due for release 2015) The director of the upcoming Star Wars movie, JJ Abrams, recently posted a video online announcing a competition where you could win a trip to the set of the film. But the video itself provided a peek into the world Abrams is constructing with the utmost of secrecy. Following a leaked photo from the Abu Dhabi set of what appeared to be the foot of an AT-AT, the monstrous imperial walkers from 1980’s The Empire Strikes Back, the video let us catch a glimpse of the region’s famous sun and sand – with an alien or two thrown in. Standing in for the desert world of Tatooine, Luke Skywalker’s home planet, there are bustling market stalls and puppet-powered beasts (perhaps shrugging off the CGI-heavy blandness of Episodes I, II and III); only on December 18, 2016, will we see if Abrams’ film is any good. But until then, rest easy knowing that A Galaxy Far, Far Away is perhaps a bit closer than you’d think.