The Burj Khalifa may have towered over proceedings in Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol, but some of Dubai's other notable landmarks will soon be getting screen time, thanks to a new big-budget Chinese action film.
Dwelling in the Fuchan Mountains, which begins shooting in Dubai this week, will include key scenes filmed at Atlantis, The Palm, the Burj Al Arab, on an Emirates Airline A380 and alongside the Burj Khalifa. The project is being billed as a "Chinese James Bond" and stars the singer-turned-actor Andy Lau, described as "the Michael Jackson of China", and the Taiwanese model Chiling Lin. It is also the first Chinese film to be shot predominantly outside China.
The director Jay Sun, who admits that the film is likely to cost "a bit more" than the Dh74 million production budget, says the project will offer a more favourable portrayal of the UAE than Mission: Impossible - without the sandstorms. "We don't want to make comparisons with the film, but one thing you can be sure of is that we can do a much better job at presenting the best of this country," he says.
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A rough cut of the scenes already shot across China shown during a press conference announcing the film at the Atlantis yesterday revealed a fast-paced thriller with more than a few similarities to Tom Cruise's spy outing. The few minutes included helicopters, explosions, fist-fights, characters abseiling down glass-fronted towers, car and boat chases, a splash of romance and what looked like a Bugatti Veyron engaging in some daredevil parking manoeuvres.
While the exact length of shooting in Dubai wasn't made public, Tim Smythe, the chief executive of local production company Filmworks, which is working on the film in Dubai, says it is a major project for the city. "In total, we'll end up with about 300 people working on it; we're doing a lot of work in a very tight time."
The film is named after a landscape painting - considered one of the most valuable in China - that is one of the few surviving works of Huang Gongwang and was painted between 1348 and 1350. The painting was partially burnt 300 years later and ended up in two pieces, with one now kept in Taipei and the other in Hangzhou. The story of the painting is in itself enough to fill a film, having passed from various high-profile owners and with at least one well-known forgery having done the rounds. Last year, the two pieces were famously reunited for the first time in the National Palace Museum in Taipei.
It is at this reunification of the painting that the film takes up the story. "They have been fighting for this painting over the past couple of hundred years," says Sun. "In this film we have gangsters fighting for it across the whole world, with Andy Lau as the hero to protect this national treasure and save lots of lives."
The actress Jingchu Zhang, who also stars alongside Lau, says that she's looking forward to shooting in Dubai, despite the risks her character will be up against. "I'm going to have a very dangerous scene, sitting in a car that is being pulled up by a helicopter, but the view is going to be wonderful."
The film is set for release some time this summer, and Sun says it will "definitely" be shown in Dubai. "I can guarantee the people here will be proud of their city."
While Mission: Impossible may still be topping box offices internationally, having passed US$450m (Dh1.7bn) since it premiered in Dubai last month, the hope is that Dwelling in the Fuchan Mountains will reach a bigger audience, especially in China. "It's going to be launched through the theatres, the internet, DVD and also national TV," says Sun. "There's going to be at least 400 million people watching this movie."