“ Genre: Action & Adventure / Suitable for 15 years and over / Director: Kunal Shivdsani / Actors: Shiney Ahuja, Esha Deol, K.K Raina, Kaveri Jha ... / DVD released 2008-10-06 at Eros International / Features of the DVD: Anamorphic, Surround Sound, PAL „
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Vikram was once a pilot, but after the plane he was flying was hijacked and his wife was killed, he gives up his career to become an airplane maintenance man. His life now is his daughter, Priya. At the same time, a major terrorist called Rashid Omar has been captured by the authorities, despite his colleague's best attempts to bust him out of jail. The terrorists decide to hijack a plane so that they can use the hostages as a bargaining tool to get Rashid out of jail once and for all. The only problem is that Priya is on the plane that is being hijacked. Once Vikram finds out, there is no way that he can sit back and wait to find out what happens. He uses his knowledge of airplanes to break into the plane and then, with the help of air hostess Saira, he plans to pick off the hijackers one by one. Bearing in mind the hijackers' phenomenal strength and manpower, can he achieve the impossible? And what happens if the hijackers find out who he is and that Priya is on the plane?
This 2008 Hindi language film is directed by Kunal Shivdasani, and is based on the story of a real hijack, with a good dose of Diehard and Flightplan thrown in - the latter because some of the action takes place in the under-carriage of the plane. Knowing that the film was considered a box office flop and that it appeared to be so similar to Diehard, I didn't really have high expectations. Nevertheless, no-one can deny that the action doesn't let up from start to finish and although the film certainly isn't without flaws, it is very entertaining. The first thing many people want to know when watching a Bollywood film is whether there is any singing and dancing. There is, but it is kept to a minimum. One routine is in a nightclub and so is perfectly in place - it's a shame that the main dancer, apparently Brazilian, is strangely dressed in a series of tight, rubber leotards and seems very out of place. The other routine involves Vikram and is a flashback to the first meeting with his wife. It's a bit sickly, but the song is pleasant to hear and it does help to cement the fact that Vikram was devastated by her loss.
Vikram is played by Shiney Ahuja. He's a good-looking man who keeps in shape, so his transformation from lowly mechanic to one-man action hero isn't entirely outside the bounds of reality. His love for his wife and child immediately help the viewer get behind him though and there's no doubt that he is a pleasure to watch. He apparently did a lot of the stunts himself, and although I've seen better and cleverer stunts in Hollywood films, they are perfectly adequate for the purpose of the film. I'm not going to put him at the top of my favourite actor list, but I'd certainly be willing to watch more of him. The air hostess, Saira, is played by Esha Deol, who has apparently been panned by the critics for her performance. I thought she was fine though. She's attractive, looked scared and angry when she needed to, and generally provided a flash of glamour. She has a couple of dodgy lines, but that's the fault of the scriptwriter.
Unfortunately, some of the other characters are a bit silly and turn what should have been a very serious drama into something with a few flashes of misplaced humour. Most notably, there is K K Raina as Rashid. When we first see him, he is sitting in a cage, being transported to a high security unit, and he looks incredibly evil - which, as he is, is perfectly acceptable. He is completely bald, but has a really bushy beard. As the film progresses, however, he starts to act increasingly oddly - I think the aim was to show that he is a complete nutcase, but he overdoes it to the extent that he becomes a complete caricature. Then there is a group of four young people on the plane who act like idiots and, because they annoyed one of the hijackers before boarding, get picked on. They, along with a honeymooning couple and an idiotic businessman who thinks he can stand up to the hijackers, are so unrealistic that it is painful to watch. They are neither funny, nor do they attract sympathy. A little less over-acting would have gone down much better.
The plot, for all it may not be original, is a good one. It is relentless from start to finish and although the film is about 2 hours long, it is never boring. The hijackers are as unpleasant as they could possibly be and there is continually the knowledge that, at any minute, another hostage could die. There is certainly plenty of death in the film; to the extent that I lost count of how many murders were committed. The fact that there is an attempt to bring the hostages into the story before they board the plane is commendable; it gives the viewer the chance to develop some kind of feelings for their fate. Unfortunately, this is one area where the film falls flat, because these characters are so annoying that it is almost a relief when they are finished off. The ending, with family members and friends throwing themselves at the dead bodies of their loved ones is a little cringe-worthy to watch, but that is probably a cultural thing and anyway, none of us know how we would react until we've been in a similar situation.
The special effects and stunts are fairly well done. When someone is shot dead, they look like they are dead and the way they fall looks realistic. Shiney Ahuja's floor dives and action scenes in general are good. There is one ridiculous point, however, when a nightclub is bombed before the hijack takes place. This is portrayed by lots of smoke and flames, with four silhouettes being thrown into the air by the blast. It looks incredibly fake and sits really badly with the rest of the film. A little more effort surely wouldn't have added much in the way of cost to the budget and would have made it look so much classier. Thankfully, that is a one-off - although as it comes so soon after the start of the film, it could put a lot of people off.
The film is in Hindi, although there are constantly sentences and phrases in English littered throughout the film, especially when the focus is on the authorities who are trying to deal with the hijack. I didn't have a problem with the subtitles; they were easy to follow and were natural, apart from the song lyrics, which, as often happens with Bollywood films, are incredibly cheesy!
The only special features are adverts for forthcoming attractions and currently available films from Eros, the distributor. There are also clips of three main songs - the two mentioned above and another one played during the credits at the beginning and end.
I've seen much better made films than this; nevertheless, it is very entertaining, I thought the pacing was great and the main performances are good. Action films aren't usually my thing, but perhaps because this is based on a true story, it worked for me. Had a little more effort gone into the special effects, the secondary characters and the script, which was beyond cheesy at times, I would certainly recommend it more highly. As it is, it's worth a watch if you get the chance. Three stars out of five.
The DVD is available from play.com for £12.99.
Running time: 118 minutes.