April 12, 2013 at 04:00 AM EDT

After directing four Fast & Furious movies, Justin Lin has become the premier car-chase filmmaker of his generation. And, as you might imagine, he composes his action scenes via a highly scientific process. ”If you came to visit us in our office, you’d think we’re crazy because we just have toy cars,” he laughs. ”Except this time we have a toy plane.”

If you’re an American with a TV set, you know what he’s talking about: the airplane-crashing-to-the-ground-while-a-car-crashes-out-of-the-airplane scene that climaxed the Fast & Furious 6 Super Bowl teaser. Building on the franchise-best gross of 2011’s Fast Five, the new film takes the series even further from its street-racing roots, as Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) leads his crew into vehicular battle with ex-special-ops rogue Owen Shaw (The Hobbit‘s Luke Evans). Paul Walker, Dwayne Johnson, and the rest of the expanding ensemble are all back, as is Michelle Rodriguez, whose Letty supposedly died two movies ago. She mysteriously returns — and she’s working for Shaw. For Diesel, the Letty-Dom relationship gives this film an added emotional hook. ”You’re able to watch them reconnect and fall in love again,” he says. ”The stakes are different. It’s not just about beating up the biggest guy.”

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