New film 'Sky Hunter' inspired by PLA Air Force

China Daily
Zhang Tao
Sky Hunter showcases the achievements of the Chinese air force. [Photo provided to China Daily]

In the wake of Wolf Warrior 2, China's most successful movie of people in uniform, the big screen will soon see a new patriotic movie to praise the heroes of the People's Liberation Army.

Sky Hunter, China's first big film to demonstrate modern aerial combat, will open on the mainland on Sept 29.

Centering on a group of elite Chinese pilots who are trained in a secret base, the film's story narrates their bravery while rescuing hostages detained by a group of foreign terrorists who occupy a missile-launching site.

For Li Chen, the director and lead star, the movie is a dream project.

"I believe to pilot a plane is a dream for most boys. I am lucky to see my dream come true through the big screen," Li said during a sneak preview in Beijing last week.

As his grandfather and mother once served in the Chinese military, Li says he has always been a fan of heroic stories.

With a film production center affiliated to the PLA Air Force as one of the film's producers, the movie has gained a lot of support from the military. Some of China's most advanced fighter jets such as the Y-20 airlifter and the J-20 stealth fighter were used to shoot some action-studded scenes, and many Chinese air force experts helped the film with their professional knowledge.

With most of the scenes shot in China and Kazakhstan, Li and his 500-member crew toured more than 13 areas, including mountains and deserts.

Li recalls he had to work continuously for around 50 hours. He and the crew also had to fight weather conditions like rain and fog, when the aircraft could not take off.

"I have worked as an actor for 20 years. I could take a rest when I didn't need to act. But as a director, I have to keep my mind at work even during breaks. I am exhausted but also excited," Li says.

He says the script is built on an attempt to tell the public about the achievements of the Chinese air force and demonstrate the progress in recent years.

"We interviewed some excellent pilots. The major characters are based on true stories. We hope the movie can show the public their routine lives, training and strategies to resolve crisis, " says Li.

To pursue a visual feat, the movie spent 200 million yuan ($ 30.2 million) while making, with nearly one-third of the total used for producing more than 1,400 special-effects scenes.

But for the producers, they have high expectations from the movie.

Zhang Li, one of the producers and scriptwriters for Sky Hunter and an air force lieutenant colonel, says the popularity of military-themed movies, such as Operation Mekong and Wolf Warrior 2, shows the market potential and audience interest in such patriotic movies.

But he says that most of the recruits once told him that a reason for them applying to join the Chinese air force was the Hollywood hit Top Gun (1986), which stars Tom Cruise as a fighter pilot.

He says Sky Hunter will give Chinese their own air force heroes.


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