With aviation dramas, it’s the thrill factor and visual spectacle that the director creates, which promise an edge-of-the-seat experience. Ajay Devgn’s latest directorial, Runway 34 lands perfectly in these departments. The film is inspired by true events from 2015 when a Doha to Kochi flight had a narrow escape after facing difficulties to land at the airport due to bad weather and low visibility. However, at many places you’d also notice several resemblances to Hollywood films like Sully (2016) and Flight (2012). Yet, Runway 34 succeeds as a gripping story and a great cinematic experience. Also read: Runway 34 trailer: Ajay Devgn plays an arrogant pilot, Amitabh Bachchan will set him straight with heavy dialoguebaazi
In the past also, Bollywood has churned out impactful aerial dramas like Neerja, Airlift, Bell Bottom, Gunjan Saxena: The Kargil Girl, but Runway is one of the finest so far in terms of its technical strength, spectacular VFX, camera work and even direction. Even though there aren’t any what’s-going-to-happen-next-moments, it engages you right from the first scenes and keeps you immersed as the story builds on and truths unfold.
The story revolves around Captain Vikrant Khanna (Ajay Devgn) and first officer Tanya Albuquerque (Rakul Preet Singh), who face the wrath of an investigation and interrogation by Narayan Vedant (Amitabh Bachchan) following a May Day call they make before landing an aircraft in turbulent conditions and risking the lives of 150 passengers. Whether or not the pilots would come out clean and justify their decision is what forms the crux of the story.
Donning the director’s hat, one more time, Ajay does a brilliant job. He is a great storyteller, I must say. More than being focused on acting, with Runway 34, he creates an immersive experience. At no point, he wastes time in decorating his characters with useless details–be it his own as a skilled, cool yet arrogant pilot who’s overconfident about his expertise, or Rakul Preet as a flattered yet scared co-pilot. He straightaway dives into the incident that happened and takes you on a journey thousands of feet above the ground.
Then the in-flight scenes, worried passengers due to turbulence, tension in the cockpit while taking decisions, have all been captured well and remain the high points of the film. Ajay dedicates an entire one half of the movie to this side of the story before the dialogue-heavy investigation and trial takes over post interval and more characters are introduced. Runway 34 sticks to the thrill it creates 35000 feet up in the sky without bringing any needless romantic angle or emotional outbursts.
Even during the scenes inside the aircraft, it was interesting to see how the passengers were a mix of what we see on a flight–a crying baby, an ailing senior citizen, a middle-aged man who wants to enjoy free drinks. Here, we also had an aviation journalist and a Youtuber (Ajey Nagar aka Carryminati playing himself) on board the flight capturing all events on his phone. While I felt they’d have some substantial parts in the due course of investigation, it was a bit off when their characters didn’t make any occurrence again or added to the story in any way.
Runway 34 is around two hours and 30 minutes long but it never appeared stretched, for the story (written by Sandeep Kewlani and Aamil Keeyan Khan) is extremely crisp and well narrated. Complementing it is Aseem Bajaj’s spectacular cinematography and score by Amar Mohile that adds to the intensity of the story and never digresses.
Ajay delivers equally well as the actor but I’d still like to laud Ajay the director for Runway 34. As the pilot struggling to make a safe landing and keep his promise of saving 150 passengers, Ajay shows the right amount of tension and calm. And in the trial room being interrogated, he speaks even with his silence. There are a couple of scenes you see him getting emotional too, and those I felt, added depth to his character and not made it look one-dimensional. Rakul Preet as a young pilot looks pretty convincing in uniform. While her performance never disappoints, her character arc could definitely have been more fleshed out. There’s only so much you see her doing onscreen and you expect something is amiss. Amitabh Bachchan as the investigating officer is as strong and stern as it gets and by now, we’ve got used to him talking in a heavy voice while questioning people, so Runway 34 also reminds us of many courtroom dramas he has been a part of. Boman Irani, Angira Dhar, Aakansha Singh have smaller parts and not much attention is paid to how they contribute to the story. However, they do their parts well in handful of scenes.
To sum up, Runway 34 keeps you engrossed and makes you feel the turbulence while you’re seated comfortably. It’s edgy, fast-paced, engaging and serves you a big screen cinematic experience that won’t disappoint.
Film: Runway 34
Director: Ajay Devgn
Cast: Ajay Devgn, Rakul Preet Singh, Amitabh Bachchan, Boman Irani