Early on in The Crew, army pilot Alexey is forced to make a choice when his plane is deemed too heavy to fly above a storm. Some cargo needs to be dropped: two four by four cars being transported on the orders of Alexey’s commander, or a collection of gifts and items being sent to an orphanage. It should be pretty clear at this point which choice our hero Alexey is going to make. Fired from the army, Alexey gets a job as a trainee with a commercial airline. Everything seems to be picking up for him, until the plane he is on receives a distress signal from a nearby island. A volcano has erupted, all the inhabitants need to be evacuated, and Alexey’s plane is the only aircraft in range.
Looking past this pretty simple set up, the film is overloaded with clichés: the brash young pilot whose mouth writes checks his body can’t cash; the veteran boss whose respect he must earn; the female co-worker whose only purpose is to fall in love with him. Credit is due to the actors for not inducing even more eye rolling. As pilot Alexey, Danila Kozlovsky brings a strange vulnerability to the role that doesn’t quite fit in with his bravado, but isn’t entirely unwelcome. Agne Grudyte is underused as co-pilot Alexandra, but Vladimir Mashkov keeps dialogue heavy scenes alive with his portrayal of captain Zinchenko.
As with any disaster movie, the crew face problem after problem in their efforts to rescue everyone: blocked runways, damaged aircraft, trapped victims. But don’t worry, along the way the writers (5 people are credited as having contributed to the script) drum up some emotion between the characters. Shoehorned in is a subplot focusing on Zinchenko’s relationship with his son, who is unfortunately along for the ride; as well as various attempts to flesh out the victims – one man struggles to tell a young child that his mother hasn’t made it, whilst a woman worries about the last thing she said to her family.
Despite the lack of originality (or watchability) of these scenes, there is genuine adrenaline in the action sequences. The effects are well done, and portions of the film are just as stimulating as any Western, city destroying example of disaster-porn. Visually, the film bounces pleasingly between the dark of the sky and the orange of fire, but what is truly impressive is the sound design. It is a real shame, then, when director Nikolay Lebedev fills time between these set pieces, returning to his film textbook to show the characters struggling faces reflecting in screens and surfaces.
The team behind The Crew most likely mean well, but they have ended up with a film that not only resembles every other disaster movie ever made, but also represents everything Jim Abrahams and the Zuckers were making fun of in Airplane! nearly 40 years ago. In fact, the only thing separating The Crew from similar Hollywood fare is the notable absence of Dwayne Johnson. In a world where studios fight viciously to hold an audience’s attention, why choose to make something that became outdated before most of the cast had even been born?
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