An immensely talented but cocky passenger aircraft pilot who likes to live it up takes on his next flight in a hungover state after partying the night before. Still, everything is going smoothly for him until the landing nears. The weather at the destination airport is stormy and he has to reroute. There are a few major hiccups and altercations while landing at the alternate destination but the skillful pilot manages to avert a disaster and make a safe landing.
Following the incident, the media and the people at large hail him as a hero. He is endlessly thanked for saving countless lives. But soon, an inquiry is started against his ‘possible negligence’ that day. The hero is pushed into a gray area with the law, and many of his decisions come under question.
Although the Indian thriller “Runway 34” claims to be inspired by a real life incident from 2015, the plot is uncannily similar to Denzel Washington’s 2012 American drama “Flight” which also claims to have been loosely inspired by a similar incident in the US. Too many similarities and coincidences here.
Available on Amazon Prime, Runway 34 is actor Ajay Devgn’s yet another attempt at direction. Also the film’s producer, Devgn plays the pilot in question—Captain Vikrant Khanna—who is grilled to the bone by Narayan Vedant (Amitabh Bachchan), head of a government investigative body.
This is Devgn’s third attempt at direction and first display of maturity as a director. Also, as Devgn does not pair with director/producer Rohit Shetty this time, he does not get to fly motorbikes and cars. Instead, he flies a passenger airplane like a normal pilot in a movie that possibly has the most detailed cockpit scenes in the history of Indian cinema.
As an actor, Devgn is mostly known as a Bollywood action star but he has time and again proved his mettle in hard-hitting drama and thrillers (‘Omkara’, ‘Drishyam’). In Runway 34, he yet again delivers an impactful performance, further strengthening his position as a versatile actor. There is an earnestness about him as Captain Khanna; his performance is powerful yet not overbearing.
The same set of compliments can be copy-pasted for the veteran actor Amitabh Bachchan who plays the shrewd investigator Narayan Vedant. But it is also not new for the legendary actor to completely own his role.
As a director, Devgn chooses to be realistic in Runway 34. From the very beginning, one can see that the actor-turned-director whose highest grossing films are usually loud and brash means serious business in this one. He seems to understand the changing taste of his audience, especially in OTT platforms.
Runway 34 does not completely glorify a ‘hero’ figure; the protagonist comes with his share of virtues and vices. The film also at all times maintains its proximity to reality and does not instill over-the-top cinematic tropes.
Unfortunately, a film with such powerful acting and scrupulous filmmaking did not do well in Indian cinemas. Perhaps most Indian audiences are still not mature enough to enjoy nuanced movies.
Who should watch it?
If you expect Ajay Devgn to jump out of a flying plane mid-air and stop the impending crash, no, this is not that kind of film. Runway 34 is a serious portrayal of something that reportedly happened in real life. So it keeps the storytelling clean and simple yet also always captivating. For those interested in high intensity thrillers, it could be a good watch.
Rating: 3.5 stars
Actors: Ajay Devgn, Amitabh Bachchan, Rakul Preet Singh
Director: Ajay Devgn
Run time: 2hrs 25mins