Are We All Born to Fly? Yu Lei is Ready to Soar Higher than Never Before!

No trade secrets are given away, otherwise Born to Fly would not be screening in international markets.

Born to Fly Well GO USA PosterWell GO USA
For screenings, please check the official website.

After much delay, Liu Xiaoshi’s Born to Fly (長空之王) is tailor-made for release during China’s holiday weekend. International Workers’ Day (May 1st) recognises the contributions of everyone who helps make their country great. Here, the various teams within the Chinese Air Force need to work hard together–and have an ace up their sleeves–if they are to maintain their air superiority. And Yu Lei (Wibo Yang) is it. He gets called to duty to be a test pilot, and it’s up to Ting Zhang (Hu Jun) to motivate him to keep going.

Despite countless delays to get this film to screen, what’s presented looks gorgeous. The camera work sells some of the aerial sequences and the CGI handles the rest. Despite former trepidation by critics and their desire to compare this work to Top Gun and its sequel, what’s been improved upon may well stretch beyond improving the SPFX. Some story edits may have been done. As for the former, I’m sure not even Tom Cruise would be willing to risk his life just to go into low-earth orbit. And what’s more celebrated is how the team stays together.

When some mavericks from another nation flaunt their latest aviation tech by invading their space, this country’s pride gets hurt fast. I’m surprised there’s no diplomatic uproar at the UN, and despite that one lingering plot hole, I enjoyed what was presented. To sideline the story to the politics would have been distracting. These hotshots don’t know any better, and even though part of this film’s design is about how the East perceives the West, thankfully the ideology doesn’t get into the way of an otherwise enjoyable film.

Born to Fly in the Pilot's Seat

Instead, this film is smart by showing who is the better man. This film is about the friendships that exist between pilots and their commanders. Although Lei is good, he needs to earn his wings all over again to show he’s got the right stuff to pilot the stealth fighter J-20. Even prior to putting this movie on the launch pad, it’s been criticised to an old 80s film. We see Lei get a romantic interest (Zhou Dongyu) and even witness someone dying; both are delivered with a similar effect.

Oscar Wilde even said it. “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery,” and this film doesn’t hold back in that respect. The best visual moments are on the tarmac and how the final seconds finish this film. The delayed release no doubt gave Xiaoshi the chance perhaps add to the narrative. He delves into other matters like with the dangers of being a test pilot. That’s a detail not really explored in Top Gun, if I recall correctly.

Family is important too. These pilots aren’t all bachelors, and what’s offered is a glimpse of a military life from a Chinese perspective. Just what these fathers mean to their sons gets better treatment here than what the two American made movies tried to put together. But there’s more to this narrative when wondering if they’ll live when things go wrong. What makes this work just as equal as the other work is in the fact we’re getting a narrative that’s just as much about brotherhood.

Also, all the flight terminology is also put into effective use here. What I liked more is in how the screenplay gets into the tech discussions about how the engines needs changes to make these jets really go supersonic. No trade secrets are given away, otherwise Born to Fly would not be screening in international markets.

4 Stars out of 5

Born to Fly International Trailer

Author: Ed Sum

I'm a freelance videographer and entertainment journalist (Absolute Underground Magazine, Two Hungry Blokes, and Otaku no Culture) with a wide range of interests. From archaeology to popular culture to paranormal studies, there's no stone unturned. Digging for the past and embracing "The Future" is my mantra.

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