Film review: Runway 34: Bumpy flight

Turbulences are the bane of some of us flyers. Runway 34 might bring them rushing back to the heart and mind and could be injurious to your mental health the next time you board a flight

Film review: Runway 34: Bumpy flight

Namrata Joshi

Turbulences are the bane of some of us flyers, churning feelings within that are difficult to put in words. Runway 34 might bring them rushing back to the heart and mind and could be injurious to your mental health the next time you board a flight (especially if it’s, like the film, from Dubai to Kochi) and happen to remember some of the fairly well-executed moments. Alas, they are few and far between and there too confined to the first half.

This is not giving the film a thumbs up. Even though the film comes to the point quick and fast and is terse and taut up to a point to have you mildly invested, the curse of the second half plagues it and how.

Ajay Devgn’s third film as a director (after U Me Aur Hum and Shivaay) in which he gifts himself the pivotal role of Captain Vikrant Khanna, claims to be based on a real incident of a narrow escape for a Jet Airways Doha-Kochi flight in 2015 but quite obviously takes inspiration and feels eminently derived from an entire genre of on-board, mid-air dramas or aviation cinema spawned by Hollywood—Flight, Flight Crew, Sully, Flightplan, Non-stop, United 93. Wish it had stayed faithful to Hollywood than deciding to plumb its Bollywoodian (ie wanting to be everything film) heart.

That is where the cringy stereotypes come to play. Forget the array of convenient characters as the passengers, there’s first officer Tanya Albuquerque (Rakul Preet Singh) who seems to be around for her surname to be the butt of few unfunny jokes. Or be the scared foil to the captain’s calm and composed and brave in every bone self. She must quiver, for him to hog every bit of the limelight with the authority with which he supposedly deals with the crisis on board.

Credit is certainly due to Rakul for still managing to salvage the badly written character with her interpretation of it, even as Devgn, in the so-called author-backed role, continues with his characteristic deadpan act to signify intensity. But the depth and gravitas, am afraid, remain more pretend than real.

It’s when the film (and the flight) land miraculously on ground and investigation into the incident begins in the hands of lawyer Narayan Vedant (Amitabh Bachchan) that things come totally undone with. The captain is grilled for his questionable decisions which could have put the lives of the 150 on board in danger and verbosity begins to get the better of the tension as the midair thriller turns into a pointless courtroom drama that lacks layers and nuances, any worthwhile arguments or moral complexities.

Eventually it all boils down to expectations and perspectives. Is the glass half full or half empty? In the season of loud but tone deaf, macho actioners I was prepared for another hare-brained film. Runway 34 may not have come shining particularly bright but didn’t agitate or irritate violently either. One wishes that with some artistic ambition and imagination it had gathered better speed and altitude. Alas, it seems in more of a hurry to touch down and land than keep soaring high.

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