When I saw the trailer of Runway 34, I was skeptical about its outcome because of how it was doing the image building of its main characters. Having seen the film, I would say actor-director Ajay Devgn has managed to strike a fair enough balance in creating a thriller that will keep you interested till the end. With Amitabh Bachchan’s character elevating the performance standards significantly in the second half, Runway 34 is a watchable thriller diluted by excessive heroism.
Captain Vikrant Khanna was the pilot of the flight from Doha to Kochi, and First Officer Tanya Albuquerque was his co-pilot. Due to bad weather conditions, they had to make some plan changes, and they decided to take the flight to Trivandrum. But with the conditions getting bad even at Trivandrum, Vikrant Khanna had to make a dangerous landing at Trivandrum airport. The judicial procedures that followed this incident where AAIB chief Narayan Vedant takes a direct interest are what we witness in Runway 34.
Structurally, Runway 34 and Tom Hanks starrer Sully are the same. In fact, both these films are based on actual incidents. But it is Bollywood, and the hero is Ajay Devgn, so one-liners are a must to make Vikrant Khanna look super cool. The scenes that were supposed to make Vikrant look arrogant were depicted in a way to make him look cool. Like Jana Gana Mana, it is actually the second-half courtroom drama that helps the film bounce back. Even though some of it is on the filmy side, I have to admit, when Amitabh Bachchan becomes strict on screen, even the audience will feel like concentrating.
As a filmmaker, Ajay Devgn wants to do particular stuff visually, but most of them felt a bit gimmicky. There are a lot of instances in the movie where a particular scene is shot in a real or fake single shot. Barring the climax bit where we are shown actual incident and simulation simultaneously, this roller coaster style cinematography wasn’t really necessary. I liked the way he staged the whole courtroom phase in the film. It respects the caliber of someone like Amitabh Bachchan, and the overall calmness helps the audience focus on the details. And it was slightly refreshing to see Ajay Devgn doing a hero character who admits his flaws. The visual effects were perfect in many crucial areas, while some patches were evidently poor.
As a performer, Devgn is pretty much repeating himself. Nothing distinctive is there in his performance to make Vikrant Khanna a memorable character. But the typical Ajay Devgn way of carrying the character was enough to make Vikranth this rockstar pilot. Even though he only appears in the second half of the film, Amitabh Bachchan as Narayan Vedant, who looks like the cooler elder brother of Narayan Shankar, has a commanding aura and his dialogue delivery and expressions elevate the overall quality of the film. Rakul Preet was convincing as the vulnerable Tanya. Boman Irani was fine in his “Vijay Mallya” like avatar.
Runway 34 is a mixed bag that ultimately works. Even though it has the baggage of being a hero-centric mainstream Bollywood film, it isn’t shifting away from the central conflict at any point. If you are okay with Ajay Devgn uttering lines like “Jalayo Toh Nahi Na,” “Mein Cheeze Kabhi Booltha Nahi,” etc., multiple times, then this thriller will surely be an engaging one for you.
Runway 34 is a mixed bag that ultimately works. Even though it has the baggage of being a hero-centric mainstream Bollywood film, it isn't shifting away from the central conflict at any point.
Green: Recommended Film
Orange: Okay, Watchable, Experimental Films
Red: Not Recommended