Synopsis – Inspired by true incidents, “Runway 34” revolves around Captain Vikrant Khanna played by Ajay Devgn, a flying prodigy, whose flight takes a mysterious course after take-off from an international destination.
My Take – Though Ajay Devgn as an actor and producer has undoubtedly been a mainstay in the Hindi film industry for a good part of three decades, with many memorable performances to his credit, keeping us excited for each new release.
However, for his latest, Devgn returns to pick up directorial reigns, after U Me Aur Hum (2008) and Shivaay (2016), two below average features unfit for the performer’s caliber, to present a clear and pleasant departure from the usual affair in the form of an edgy, fast-paced aviation drama meant for the big screen cinematic experience.
While the film seems to instantly share similarities with director Robert Zemekis’s Flight (2012) starring Denzel Washington, and director Clint Eastwood’s Sully (2016) starring Tom Hanks, it is actually loosely based on a real incident involving a 2015 Jet Airways Doha-Cochin (DOH-COK) flight that had a narrow escape due to unclear visibility and bad weather conditions. But backed by cutting-edge visual treatment, thrill factor, a crisp narrative and immersive performances, Ajay Devgn‘s latest directorial surprisingly lands perfectly by delivering an edge-of-the-seat experience.
Here, actor-director-producer Ajay Devgn has mounted a distraction free aviation thriller where the panic inducing tragedy is averted by the intermission, but the savior faces the charge of being careless and not following the laid-down procedure. For 148 minutes the film keeps you engrossed and makes you experience the turbulence in your seated comfortably. It’s edgy, fast-paced, engaging and should be experienced for the way it is depicted.
The story follows Vikrant Khanna (Ajay Devgn), a veteran flamboyant flight captain with photographic memory, who along with his first officer Tanya Albuquerque (Rakul Preet Singh) ends up facing the wrath of an investigation and interrogation by DGCA officer Narayan Vedant (Amitabh Bachchan) following a May Day call they made before landing the Dubai to Cochin flight aircraft in turbulent conditions, risking the lives of 150 passengers.
While the passengers and media term him a hero, Vikrant’s decision of landing at Trivandrum instead of Bengaluru and even opting for Runway 34 instead of the recommended Runway 16, opens up a can of worms he isn’t sure how to justify. An edge-of-the-seat drama, the film keeps you hooked right from the beginning.
Despite a prolonged run time, the film never appears stretched courtesy of crisp and well narrated screenplay from Sandeep Kewlani and Aamil Keeyan Khan. It also helps that the film is created an immersive experience, quickly diving into the aforementioned incident takes place thousands of feet above the ground. Complementing the film is Aseem Bajaj‘s spectacular cinematography and Amar Mohile‘s score that adds to the intensity of the story and never digresses.
The flight scenes displaying the fear and anxiety of the petrified passengers are real and palpable. The external flight shots of the aircraft flying amidst thunder and rain are also beautifully executed and appear real. The final landing of the plane in severe turbulence is frighteningly credible.
The second half of the film with the entry of Narayan Vedant, the Investigating Officer, is equally exciting, although it is more of a courtroom drama with the inquiry committee and the pilots being interrogated. While making a fair fist of putting one man’s brush with danger at the center of a riveting narrative that not only keeps the audience on tenterhooks but also raises relevant questions about the apportioning of blame for a flight gone awry.
The film takes shots at important questions and comes up with answers that make enough sense not to be dismissed offhand.
Sure, some parts of the film appear a tad rushed and unconvincing, especially the initial inquiry by the DGCA officials and the breath analyzer tests. Even Vikrant’s few scenes with his wife, Samaira (Aakanksha Singh) do not add up to much because they tell us little about what makes him the kind of man he is.
Nor do his stray exchanges with his lawyer, Radhika Roy (Angira Dhar), whose only brief to him is not to reveal anything to anyone. However, the film deserves to be experienced for the way it depicts one of the scariest, and a near-disastrous aviation mishap in recent times with engaging characters, thrill and drama.
Performance wise, Ajay Devgn as the dashing and accomplished Captain Vikrant Khanna essays his character with his characteristic restraint and minimal expressions. Powering the film to a smooth landing. Amitabh Bachchan as always is a treat to watch and expectedly takes center stage with his flawless oratorical skills and charisma, and towers over everyone else in the inquiry scenes.
Rakul Preet Singh performs her part with complete honesty, striking a fine balance between her character’s emotional turmoil. In supporting turns, Boman Irani, Angira Dhar and Aakanksha Singh make their presence felt, despite underwritten parts. On the whole, ‘Runway 34’ is a visually immersive aviation drama anchored by a gripping narrative and strong performances.
Directed – Ajay Devgn
Rated – PG13
Run Time – 148 minutes