The Crew: Disaster done right

A still from 'The Crew'.

A still from 'The Crew'.  

Two pilots try to save people stranded on an island where a volcano has erupted only to get stuck there themselves

When it comes to disaster films, quite obviously Hollywood rules the genre with its big budget blockbusters. But here we have a remake of Russia’s very first disaster film titled Air Crew (1980). The Crew or Ekipazh has already racked up many achievements. For instance, it’s the second Russian film to be shot in digital 3D IMAX after Stalingrad (2013). It’s also the first film to be released in Japan after 2006. For a film of this genre, The Crew is doing a great job of opening up the country’s cinematic borders. But is the film worth watching despite its geographic hold?

To start with, Indian viewers will be (ill)treated to a dubbed version of the film, which often loses plenty of nuance in translation. It’s an inevitable loss when dubbing an international film. Even with its shoddy translation, subtitles would be preferred. To take the discomfort up a notch, our censor board has stepped in to work their magic, frequently editing out scenes that eat into dialogue. In the end,The Crew turns into a jarring experience without being entirely at fault.

Its shortcomings (albeit plenty) aside, the film has a cocky military pilot Alex (Danila Kozlovsky) who likes to live by his own code of honour. This includes breaking rules and offloading a brand new BMW car off a cargo plane mid-air to shed excess weight. In consequence, Alex’s forced to find employment at a passenger airlines securing the position of a trainee under the veteran pilot, Leonard. During a routine cargo run, the two try to save stranded people on an island where a volcano has erupted. When the aftershocks cause another eruption, the pilots have to save the day.

  • Cast: Vladimir Mashkov, Danila Kozlovsky, Agne Grudyte and Katerina Shpitsa
  • Director: Nikolai Lebedev
  • Runtime: 140 mins
  • Genre: Disaster
  • Synopsis: Two pilots try to save people stranded on an island where a volcano has erupted only to get stuck there themselves

For the first half of the film, the audience is forced to endure inane back stories of the protagonists. There’s everything from Alex’s love interest, a fellow pilot named Sandra (Agne Grudite) to Leonard’s trouble with his son Stanley (Sergey Romanovich). It’s unnecessary and seems as if director Nikolai Lebedev couldn’t stretch out the disaster portion of the film. Instead, he decided to give his characters semblances of personalities with half-hearted arcs. There’s some tension between Leonard and his son. Alex has his own battles (very subtly hinted) with his father. There’s some side story about a stewardess pining for pilots and ignoring her colleague in favour of flirting with Alex. But that’s about it. The supporting actors don’t quite get their due. And sometimes, the rubbish spewing out of the characters’ mouths (another dubbing damage?) will infuriate. There are lines like “You’re not a pilot, just a woman behind the controls” which doesn’t match its setting’s context. Then a character refers to flight attendants as being the job of a woman. A tepid rebuttal hardly checks the sexism of this nature.

When we’re done scratching our heads (and drawing blood) at the ludicrousness of the first half, finally disaster strikes. In his defence, Lebedev steps into his own when he has to direct his actors during a catastrophe. The cinematography is efficacious, with believable mushrooms of smoke and fire engulfing the island. The clawing lava inching towards its potential victims is what cinematic thrills are made of. The thought of people succumbing to the disaster on-screen is at once exciting and terrifying. The stunts – as far away from reality as they could get – don’t elicit an eye roll.

The Crew’s two halves are incongruous. Do as you like during the first half, but, do not move from that theatre seat after the interval.

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Printable version | Feb 17, 2020 8:48:42 AM |

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