3.5 / 5
Runway 34 is a fictionalized account of what transpired on board Jet Airways Doha to Kochi flight 9W 555, that had a narrow escape on August 18, 2015, after facing difficulties to land at the Cochin International Airport due to extreme weather conditions.
Captain Vikrant Khanna (Ajay Devgn) is an alpha male. We’re told this via an entry song, which contains these very words. He likes to work hard and party harder. He gets drunk at a party before a flight. Despite that he is confident enough to go to his assigned flight. And even manages to land it in Trivandrum under harsh conditions when the flight gets diverted from Kochi. Every May Day call is thoroughly investigated, however. That’s when Narayan Vedant (Amitabh Bachchan) steps in. He is the head of the investigative agency which investigates such mishaps. Narayan is a stickler for efficiency. And wants everything done by the book. He feels something is fishy and wants to get into the bottom of it. What ensues is an engaging courtroom drama. There are different interpretations to the truth. He makes life rather difficult for both Vikrant and his co-pilot Tanya Albuquerque (Rakul Preet Singh). Is Vikrant a hero or a careless pilot who put his passengers in jeopardy? That’s what the film tries to find out
We’re subjected to a pulsating beginning where we see an aircraft caught in high turbulence. The VFX makes the emergency look alive. It’s an immersive experience and you feel you’re actually in the airplane. Ajay Devgn looks cool as a cucumber taking executive decisions under tense conditions. They’re real edge-of-the-seat moments. The courtroom sequences that follow also make for an interesting watch. Amitabh Bachchan’s towering presence dominates here. The way he builds a case against Vikrant is interesting. Having seen the events before, we still doubt our eyes hearing his interpretations.
Boman Irani gleefully plays the greedy owner of the airline Vikrant works for. Angira Dhar makes a five minute appearance as the airline’s hotshot troubleshooter. Aakanksha Singh plays the supportive wife who has full faith in her husband’s honesty and is unfazed even when infidelity is hinted at. She’s petty to look at and has been cast effectively. Influencer CarryMinati plays himself as one of the irritated passengers who is recording what happened in the flight. Strangely, the recording is never used as evidence later in the film. The writing lags when it comes to the passengers, as they all seem to be stock characters. Rakul Preet Singh has the most interesting part. She plays the junior pilot in awe of her senior but unwittingly ends up being a pawn against him. It’s a layered character which she does full justice to.
Ajay, who is the director as well as the producer, has kept the first half for himself and given the second half over to Amitabh. Their confrontation scenes come at the very end and make for an engaging watch. Both are painted as two individuals trying to do the right thing under extraordinary set of circumstances. No one is totally right or wrong and that’s the film’s biggest strength. Both are consummate actors and make their characters seem believable. It’s a treat to watch them go through their paces on screen. Ajay isn’t in his action hero mode here and has toned down his performance. And he has made sure we get to sympathize with his character. Amitabh Bachchan is a sure bet in every film he appears in and this film too is no exception. We’re riveted to the screen whenever he’s around. It’s a treat to watch him say his lines in chaste Hindi. And put him together with Ajay and we have a win-win combination.
Watch the film for its combination of aviation and courtroom drama and to see two great actors at work together.
Trailer: Runway 34
Rachana Dubey, April 28, 2022, 7:24 PM IST
4.0 / 5
Runway 34 Story: Captain Vikrant and first officer Tanya Alburqurquee find themselves riled in an investigation following a Mayday call before landing an aircraft in testing conditions. Do the pilots aptly justify their actions and make their way back into the cockpit?
Runway 34 Review: Runway 34 is loosely based on the story of the narrow escape that a flight from Doha to Kochi had a few years ago due to unclear visibility and bad weather conditions. Captain Vikrant Khanna (Ajay Devgn, also the director and producer here) is a high-flying pilot who is confident and borderline arrogant about his abilities, especially to handle turbulence and crisis 35000 feet above sea-level. He’s employed with an airline company.
On what starts off as a routine trip from Dubai to Cochin, he encounters torrid weather conditions. Much against the suggestions of his first officer Tanya Alburqurque (Rakul Preet Singh), not only does he change the flight’s alternate destination but eventually sends out the ‘May Day’ message just before landing the flight, a few inches shy of a crash. How the investigation in the matter pans out forms a considerable part of the narrative.
Even though there are precedents of similar dramatic films like Sully and Flight in Hollywood, Ajay Devgn’s directorial is a first in many ways for Hindi cinema, and a clear and pleasant departure from his previous attempts to helm the megaphone. His growth as a storyteller is hard to miss. The cutting-edge visual treatment of the narrative, a crisp story (Sandeep Kewlani) and screenplay (Sandeep and Aamil Keeyan Khan) with no undue romantic and dramatic digressions or interludes, smart utilization of VFX, moments of thrill that bring one to the closure of the first half, the sound and production design of the film are just some of the undebatable plus points of the movie.
Even though its runtime is about two hours and 28 minutes, it does not feel that long, and is engaging in both thrill and drama departments in equal measures. Performances by Amitabh Bachchan, Boman Irani and Ajay are well-composed and on-point with their characters. The music interspersed with the story also lends itself well to the proceedings.
However, there could have been more drama and layering to the trial-led second half. To begin with, even as the screenplay continues to closely examine whether it was the weather conditions or the mindspace of the pilot that led to the ‘MayDay’ call, it misses addressing a few crucial questions. One of them, for instance, is why the pilot chose not to divert to the flight’s designated alternate destination despite being prompted by his first officer? And why was this angle not prodded sufficiently in the course of a closed-door trial?
Smaller supporting characters like the aviation journalist, the irate businessman and the guy recording videos on his phone in the flight felt like they would have more purpose in the trial portions. Sadly, they didn’t. Also, though Boman Irani makes his presence felt he doesn’t have much scope to perform. Rakul, performs her part with complete honesty, striking a fine balance between a gamut of emotions but one would have liked to see her part etched out a little more. Angira Dhar and Aakanksha Singh could have done with chunkier parts to play and contribute more to the narrative, too.
However, Runway 34 should be experienced in the way it depicts one of the scariest, and a near-disastrous aviation mishap in recent times with engaging characters, thrill and drama. Although there have been films shot in large and small chunks inside aircrafts, this one plays wonderfully on the audience’s psyche showing them exactly what may just go wrong if the weather doesn’t support a flight’s landing and when decisions have to be made running against a clock. Overall, the film doesn’t spend too much time taxiing on the runway; it takes off quickly and keeps you hooked till you disembark from the theater’s aisles.