‘Sky High’ is a fast-paced Spanish action thriller directed by Daniel Calparsoro and written by Jorge Guerricaechevarría. The film follows the rise of Angel, an ambitious young man from the poor suburbs of Madrid who has a penchant for robberies. As Angel’s heists get bigger and riskier, he forges ahead despite mounting pressure from authorities and fellow criminals.
The fearless, borderline self-destructive attitudes of him and his gang make for very entertaining viewing, sure, but is there some truth to these stories and were such audacious heists actually carried out with such frequency? We decided to look for the inspiration behind ‘Sky High’ and try to discover whether it is based on a true story or not. Here’s what we found out.
Is Sky High Based on a True Story?
No, ‘Sky High’ is not based on a true story. Even though it brings to the forefront the issues faced by several people in Spain, the characters and specific situations portrayed are a work of fiction. But the director stated that the starting point of the film was basically real since it was a “reflection of today’s society.” The high octane heist movie draws from multiple news stories for inspiration, as well as from Spain’s socio-economic disparities that result in the type of bold, daring heists that we see throughout the film.
So popular, in fact, are the movies that portray crimes as a result of socio-economic disparity in Spain that there is an entire genre of Spanish cinema called “cine quinqui” or “delinquency cinema.” This style of cinema emerged in the 1970s during Spain’s transition to democracy, which was marked by social disorder and fears of civil war. This period consequently saw a rise in crime perpetrated by youths from socioeconomically backward sections of society who were tired of the rampant inequality and poverty they experienced.
Quinqui cinema, which was most popular in the late 1970s and 1980s in Spain, focused on marginalized, working-class youngsters who generally lived in the outskirts of cities and committed small-scale robberies and street crime in a bid to escape poverty. The crimes were most often heavy-handed since the perpetrators were not professional thieves, and given the already volatile state of the country, there was not much need for subtlety. We see this portrayed in ‘Sky High’ wherein the thieves generally break into stores by ramming their car through the storefront. Most of such crimes in the 1970s centered around the cities of Madrid and Barcelona.
The makers of ‘Sky High’ seemingly took inspiration from Quinqui cinema and transposed it to modern-day Spain, which has suffered from economic and real estate downturns. The characters in the movie are similarly working-class youngsters living far outside the city and looking to rise up the socioeconomic ladder using any means possible. This might also be why the film is based in Madrid since the capital was the heart of the civil unrest that largely inspired Quinqui cinema and continues to be a hub for aficionados of the genre.
The director stated, “The characters we have created are epically ambitious: they have nothing, they begin from scratch, and they shoot for the moon; believing in themselves makes them great.” Despite the events and characters of ‘Sky High’ being a work of fiction, its overarching themes of economic disparity and youngsters gambling with their lives and freedom for a shot at making it big are rooted in reality and are a part of Spanish history, especially in the city of Madrid. The film attempts to modernize these themes and place them in the context of the recent economic hardships faced by the country.
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