Film Review: Runway 34

Film Review: Runway 34

This Ajay Devgn directorial venture, starring himself in the lead, is a fast-paced aviation drama now screening on Amazon Prime. The 2 hours 28 minutes thriller appears to be even shorter for its water-tight script and smart screenplay. On top of that, spectacular VFX and camera work make for an immersive cinematic experience.

The film can neatly be divided into two parts. The first half is the high-tension aviation thriller, where an arrogant and highly proficient pilot with a photographic memory, Captain Vikrant Khanna (Devgn), appears to have a rather complex character. The story revolves around him and the naïve and vulnerable Tanya Albuquerque (Singh). A series of events and mishaps led to the climax of the first part when following a May Day call, the pilots had to make a near impossible landing in zero visibility and extreme turbulence.

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Bollywood has produced many flight movies in recent years, and most of them have struggled to be realistic. The fake mock-up shoots made up cockpit scenes, and the illogical portrayal of several aviation technicalities often left audiences wanting more. And for trained aviation professionals or ex-cabin crew like yours truly, it's always been a jarring experience to watch movies like Highjack (2008) or Neerja (2016).

Runway 34 pleasantly surprises with its hyperrealistic inflight and cockpit scenes, minor attention to detail and an impressive amount of research on the subject. Coupled with this, Ajay Devgn's selection of a real-life incident, brilliant direction and acting prowess make the most of Runway 34 an edge-of-the-seat film-watching experience. Especially the landing sequence with the song ‘The Fall’ by Jasleen Royal playing in the background is easily the highest point of this movie. After 'Gangubai Kathiawadi' and 'Rudra', Devgn stuns once again with how much his acting has matured over the years!

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However, the same cannot be said when the movie's second part graduates to a courtroom drama. It appeared Devgn was flying by the seat of his pants this time, without the right tools of knowledge and experience.

The film's second part starts in an anti-climactic tone when the pilots get investigated by aviation accidents investigative bureau head Narayan Vedant (Bachchan). But the entire investigation was verbose, futile, and pre-decided on Devgn's innocence.

When minor characters like the aviation journalist, the impatient businessman and the guy recording videos on his phone on board made a distinct impression, one would harbour expectations to see them again during the trial part. Sadly, we didn't.

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Investigative aviation drama, which follows an air crash or the possibility of it, can be equally thrilling if told from a neutral point of view. Michael Crichton's novel 'Airframe' can make for an excellent case in point. In Runway 34, an omnipotent pilot with unidimensional character portrayal stripped the film of its much-needed drama and layers. Bachchan's flaky acting in this film also appeared to have suffered the same hubris of overconfidence as the film's central character, devouring the movie's blockbuster potential.

However, this film can be seen as a milestone aviation thriller in Bollywood, opening up opportunities for future endeavours. And because of its availability on digital platforms, it can make for a decent weekend movie night.

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