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Reviving an Israeli Version of ‘Top Gun’

Given the unique reverence the Israeli air force commands in the hearts of the people, being hailed as the most esteemed of all aerial combatants with aspiring young individuals yearning to enlist in the IAF, the absence of a captivating cinematic portrayal of the IAF, akin to an Israeli rendition of Top Gun, is indeed surprising.

However, this narrative has been transformed with the recent debut of “Air War” by Roy Hornshtein across Israel. The film unfolds a spirited tale set in an IAF base on the brink of the Six Day War, featuring charismatic leads, elements of romance, a rivalry between two ace pilots, and notably, realistic and exhilarating aerial combat sequences.

In the film, Maor Schwitzer embodies the role of Ran Nesher, a bold and audacious daredevil entrusted with leading an IAF squadron in the prelude to the 1967 conflict, while Daniel Litman portrays Eitan, his rival pilot who perceives a threat in the new command structure, thereby driving much of the storyline.

The ensemble cast includes Gily Itskovitch as a female soldier stationed at the base, alongside Lihi Kornowski in the role of a pilot’s wife.

Hornshtein, who dedicated 15 years to bring this narrative to life, expressed his longstanding curiosity as to why the IAF had not been explored for on-screen drama earlier, emphasizing the inherent dramatic potential within its daily operations.

Drawing inspiration from Operation Focus, hailed as a monumental achievement in aviation history, Hornshtein delves into the events of June 5, 1967, when the IAF orchestrated a devastating blow to the Egyptian Air Force on the ground before proceeding to target air bases in Jordan and Syria later that day. This strategic move significantly crippled the aerial capabilities of these nations, paving the way for Israel’s swift military triumph.

Despite not being a pilot himself, Hornshtein’s meticulous research and consultations with experts enabled him to craft a compelling narrative that stays true to the essence of the IAF’s legacy.

While the film pays homage to real-life figures and historical events, it also weaves a captivating tale of courage and valor amidst the backdrop of intense aerial confrontations.

As the film unfolds, viewers are immersed in the technical intricacies of aerial combat, meticulously recreated through a blend of practical effects and animation, ensuring an authentic cinematic experience.

Moreover, the dedication to authenticity extends to the actors, who underwent training and interacted with veteran pilots to infuse realism into their performances, capturing the essence of the era and the challenges faced by those involved.

Despite facing initial challenges in securing funding for the project, Hornshtein’s unwavering commitment to showcasing the heroism and sacrifices of the IAF pilots eventually garnered support from various film funds, culminating in the realization of his cinematic vision.

As “Air War” takes flight in theaters, it serves as a poignant tribute to the heroes of the past, resonating with audiences in Israel during challenging times, offering a moment of celebration amidst the prevailing adversities.