Airlift: Movie Review

This Review was written by me for MTTN (Manipalthetalk.net) on January 22nd, 2016.

No, this is not Argo. There, I said it! One question that has been bothering most ever since they saw the feature trailer. Airlift is its own film, a spellbinding story that gradually builds tension along the way, and one that never really made it to our history textbooks. Stressful, and yet wonderfully funny, although quite heavy-handed in many places, director Raja Krishna Menon’s Airlift ticks all the correct boxes. But is it worth a trip to the theatre? Let’s dig in.

The plot is not an unfamiliar one, as its already been laid out well in the trailers – Ranjit Katiyal (Akshay Kumar) is a resident in Kuwait with his family, who does well to keep away from his Indian roots. But during the 1990 Iraq-Kuwait crisis, he is rendered helpless with most other Indian residents such as himself, stranded in a war zone with no escape. From there, all the way to the rescue mission which included 488 flights bringing back the 1.7 lakh Indians home, forms the basic storyline of the film. Sound exciting enough? Sure does.

Akshay Kumar, who has endured his fair share of critical bashing over the years, can finally put all that to rest. His take on the film’s main protagonist, Ranjit Katiyal is brimming with excellent execution. You can truly feel for his character in various scenes, especially once the film catches on to its sombre tone. Nimrat Kaur, as his wife Amrita Katyal delivers a performance so layered and compelling, that you wouldn’t even believe this is just her second offering after The Lunchbox. One suggestion – do not miss the scene just post the interval, where she delivers a nerve-racking  speech in retaliation to someone questioning her husband’s actions. If the crowd in your theatre is anything like the one I watched the film with, there’ll be wild applause and cheering during this particular scene. (hey, I’m being vague. Gotta keep it spoiler-free, remember?) The rest of the supporting cast deserves a special mention too, as each character’s subplot has been well mapped and executed, thereby giving everyone a chance to shine. Prakash Belwadi’sbrilliant take on the quarrelsome Mr. George will stay with you long after you’ve left the theatre.

Ain't no Tony Mendez!

The plot is fascinating for the most part, and really holds your attention, rarely letting up. The songs have been cut short, so as to not take many detours from the intended tone of the film – which in itself is an achievement, considering the rarity of this factor in a general Akshay Kumar flick. They could, however, have done with some tighter editing – but that’s an easily forgivable gripe. The background score too, hits some high points along the way, and does well to keep your interest flowing.

Speaking of the direction in particular, one can easily say that the film is very well shot. Kudos to director Raja Krishna Menon and team for brilliantly constructing the various set pieces in the film, along with those numerous locales having a certain level of authenticity that is simply awe-inspiring. Definitely some fabrications have been implemented to heighten the tension, drama, and make the story more cinematically exciting, but those are minor quibbles, in an otherwise brilliantly paced film. Bollywood films opened on a remarkable note this year, with both Wazir and Airlift (No, we’re not talking about Kya Kool Hai Hum 3!) This is a thrilling and provocative piece of film making, one that is definitely worth a watch. I’m going with a 3/5 for Airlift. Don’t miss it!

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