This review first appeared in the Sunday Star-Times, May 2016
Neerja is an unexpected overturning of Bollywood cliché, eschewing a song-and-dance love story for the biographical tale of an air hostess caught up in the terrifying terrorist hijacking of a Pan Am flight in 1986. It is also one of the most gripping and gut-wrenching thrillers you’ll see all year, from any country’s studio.
Our interest is seized from the opening scenes, with slick editing which switches between Karachi, as the terrorists prepare for their mission, and Mumbai, where a young and beautiful stewardess sets off from her parents’ house for her first journey as head purser. As the two parties swiftly converge, the narrative, despite its being mostly confined within an aircraft cabin, intensifies the tension to an almost unwatchable climax.
Sonam Kapoor (daughter of Anil Kapoor who has successfully crossed over into Hollywood with Slumdog Millionaire and Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol) plays the titular heroine whose clear-headedness and gutsy actions propel both the story and our growing investment in her safety.
Reminiscent of the superb (and equally devastating) United 93, which dramatized the ill-fated flight from 9/11, Neerja brilliantly combines white-knuckle drama with personal concerns which leave you shattered by its end.