The Crew is the first Russian film in 10 years to get a commercial release in India, but it’s nothing to write home about.
The Crew is the first Russian film in 10 years to get a commercial release in India, but it’s nothing to write home about.

New plane, old route: The Crew review by Sarit Ray

It’s a bit slow, a bit ho-hum. But as disaster movies go, there’s enough to keep you interested.
Hindustan Times | By Sarit Ray
PUBLISHED ON JAN 20, 2017 05:02 PM IST

THE CREW (Russian; dubbed)

Direction: Nikolay Lebedev

Actors: Danila Kozlovsky, Agne Grudyte, Vladimir Mashkov

Rating: 2 / 5

I watched the first day, first show of The Crew in an empty theatre. It’s the first Russian film (a blockbuster at that) in 10 years to get a commercial release in India, and it’s telling how little noise there has been around it.

The Crew is a remake of a 1979 film by the same title. That, too, was popular. It’s that sort of a genre. Planes, explosions, volcanoes, earthquakes, and good-looking people saving the day make for entertaining cinema. That’s something even Russia and America can agree on.

Perhaps to help us relate, names have been tweaked: so, Alexandra is Sandra (Agne Grudyte), and Alexey Guchshin is Alex McCoy (Danila Kozlovsky). But that can only go so far. The English dubbing — often dispassionate and monotonous — takes a fair bit of drama away.

With disaster movies, the formula is straightforward: keep things simple, blow things up a lot. This one is a little more ambitious, so you end up waiting for disaster to actually strike.

A rebellious pilot must save the day when a volcano threatens to wipe out an island. Yup, it’s not believable, but it’s still kind of fun.
A rebellious pilot must save the day when a volcano threatens to wipe out an island. Yup, it’s not believable, but it’s still kind of fun.

The first hour invests in personal lives. There’s a father-teenage son conflict. There’s a hint of feminism: Sandra is independent, a pilot senior to our hero, Alex, and able to tell him off for his shouty chauvinism. Oddly, Alex seems the least fleshed-out: he’s more Maverick from Top Gun than commercial pilot at heart. And his disregard for authority gets him fired from his job as a cargo pilot.

Naturally, when he joins a commercial airline as a trainee, his instructor tells him off for his stunts. That is, until, while flying an empty plane to Asia, they get a distress call from a volcanic island where there’s been an earthquake. The instructor — so far a stickler for the rule book — has had a change of heart, and off they go, primary cast in tow.

Thereafter, it’s one act of daredevilry after another: Drive through lava. Get a jet to take off on a burning strip. Perform mid-air stunts. Fly through a storm. Run out of fuel.

As recipes for action films go, this is a freakshake.

Suspension of disbelief is called upon as all but their rescue plane is blown up. And Alex takes a bus out to rescue locals. Where’s the military? Who knows.

As predictable as The Crew might be, you see why it works. The special effects are Hollywood-grade, high-budget. The 3D (there isn’t a regular option) is passable.

But you know what’s not Hollywood? The set piece where ground control always lets out a collective cheer when something goes right is totally missing. The Russians just absorb the moment quietly. It feels more real.

Watch the trailer for The Crew here

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