It’s wartime. The setting: The Middle East. Like every war, it’s going to have casualties and prisoners. Nations work around the clock to bring back their citizens. In the middle of all the chaos, one man is tasked with evacuating his compatriots from the war zone. Sounds familiar? If you’re picturing a bearded Ben Affleck in Iran you could be forgiven. Instead, we’re talking about a similarly stubbled Akshay Kumar in his new movie Airlift.
The film, directed by Raja Krishna Menon is based on the biggest civil evacuation ever staged. In 1990 Saddam Hussain invaded Kuwait, stranding more than 1,70,000 Indians. After an agreement with the Iraqi government, the stranded Indians were transported back to Mumbai by 488 flights in coordination with Indian Airlines. No, there was no Akshay Kumar running around saving the day and dancing with Nimrat Kaur. But let’s not let that get in the way of a good movie.
This got us thinking. There are some obvious comparisons that can be drawn between this, let’s face it, semi-fictional account of a real life incident and the many Hollywood flicks we’ve seen over the years with a similar premise. So let’s get started then. We’ve found some.
Duh. Ben Affleck’s (he directed it too) Oscar-winning thriller is the most obvious pick. From Middle Eastern setting to the choice of getaway ‘vehicle’, Airlift always seemed like a desi Argo from the minute we first saw its trailer.
Black Hawk Down (2001)
Set during the Battle of Mogadishu, Ridley Scott’s gritty modern warfare movie resembled a Call of Duty videogame more than a film. But when a ragtag group of soldiers are stranded in the hostile and violent ‘Mog’ the chain of events set off are nothing short of thrilling. The resulting rescue mission (with the aid of Pakistani forces) is a gloriously fist-pumping sequence.
Saving Private Ryan/The Martian (1998/2015)
We’ve pooled the two ‘let’s save Matt Damon’ movies together because it’s much more convenient this way. Both movies feature a Matt Damon in need of swift rescuing. Only The Martian pretty much sticks with him the whole movie and Saving Private Ryan… Well, let’s just say it didn’t end as well for Damon that time. Also, one’s set during the Second World War and the other’s set on Mars. The Martian is the one set on Mars.
A Hijacking/Captain Phillips (2012/2013)
This pooling movies together thing has really started something. Both of these are really great films but chances are you’ve probably only heard of the Tom Hanks Oscar-winner. A Hijacking is a similar account of Somali pirates taking seamen hostage. Only it’s Danish. And there’s no Barkhad Abdi declaring himself the captain. But do yourself a favour and check this out. If you liked Captain Phillips you’ll love this.
The Taking of Pelham 123/Bus 174/Speed (2009/2002/1994)
So this is the hostage rescue on a bus/train section. Pelham (we’re talking about the remake here) features a dependably stellar performance by Denzel Washington as an ordinary man who must negotiate with a frankly deranged John Travolta. Speed, as you probably already know, is a classic ‘90s action movie that launched the careers of both Sandra Bullock and Keanu Reeves as they play two people who are trapped on a bus that’s rigged to explode if it slows down below 50 mph. The best one of the lot, no doubt, is the Brazilian documentary Bus 174 about a lone gunman who in an act of desperation and retaliation holds an entire bus hostage. It’s a documentary. And it plays out like the best thriller you’ve ever seen.
One Day in September (1999)
This film is based on the kidnapping of 11 Israeli athletes during the 1972 Munich Olympics by a Palestinian terrorist group called Black September. The film documents the events surrounding the hostage crisis and the many attempts made to rescue them. It won the Oscar for Best Documentary Feature. It is essential viewing. It also inspired Steven Spielberg’s 2005 film Munich, that dealt with Israel’s retaliation to this event.
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The author tweets @NaaharRohan