Accomplished Russian blockbuster Flight Crew has arrived in India in a dubbed version with a new title and British accents. Nikolai Lebedev’s The Crew sets up its characters nicely for a little over 50 minutes before launching full-throttle into disaster movie zone, involving two planes that escape volcanic eruptions on an earthquake-hit island and navigate turbulence and preposterousness.
Movie star-handsome pilot Alex (Danila Kozlovsky) is kicked out of the military after he disobeys an obnoxious general. Relegated to trainee commercial pilot status, Alex comes into contact with chief pilot Fitzgerald (Vladimir Mashkov, who has also appeared in the Hollywood productions Behind Enemy Lines and Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol) and fellow pilot Sandra (Agne Gurdyte). A short romance with Sandra goes nowhere, while Fitzgerald’s love for the rulebook frequently gets Alex into trouble.
Alex gets an opportunity to prove his mettle when he accompanies Fitzgerald on a rescue mission to an earthquake-ravaged island. When it appears that Alex has died during the rescue, Fitzgerald takes off with Sandra even though his son (Sergey Romanovich) is among the suspected victims.
Fortunately for Fitzgerald and the movie, Alex is not only alive but in hot pursuit of Fitzgerald’s aircraft, which has developed serious snags and is no position to land. A daring mid-air passenger transfer (yes, you read that right) is so convincingly filmed that it allows for suspension of disbelief to fly away with as much force as the few hapless flyers who don’t manage to make it.
Russian reserve keeps emotions within check, while Lebedev’s firm-handed steering and superbly filmed action scenes ensure that the mid-air heroics are always believable. Some Hollywood-style dialogue has crept into the dub – “Crazy? That’s what we need right now,” growls Fitzgerald when the passenger transfer is proposed – but all things considered, The Crew is less manipulative and gimmicky than the average Hollywood air disaster genre movie.
One of the movie’s inspirations and guiding lights is Alexander Mitta’s classic Russian disaster movie Air Crew (1979). The Crew lands amidst a couple of mysterious Russian air disasters and general global suspicion about the country’s role in contributing to Donald Trump’s victory in the US Presidential elections. The movie is surprisingly low-key in jingoism, and its gruff celebration of Russian courage under fire is best captured in the stoic faces lining the control room at headquarters. Hollywood would have pumped up the volume and thrown in a few ”Goddamits!” Bollywood would have added a song to the mix. In The Crew, the men and women in the control room keep their collective nerve and wait. The stretched ending is Hollywood; the treatment is resolutely not.
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