"Devastating Account of Bravery"

Content: -2 Discretion advised for adults.

What You Need To Know:

NEERJA is a tribute from India to a true hero – a 22-year-old flight attendant, Neerja Bhanot, who saved 360 lives aboard a hijacked plane in 1986. Through her quick-thinking and bravery, the movie recounts all the ways Neerja contributed to the safety of the passengers aboard the plane, even after the pilots fled. Well written and executed, with an exceptional performance by Sonam Kapoor, the movie is an emotionally powerful ride.

While some may choose to forego such an emotional movie, others will find it to be an important movie to watch because it’s based on a captivating true story. The aim of the filmmakers is obviously to pay tribute to the real Neerja Bhanot, even if they over-romanticize her life at times. Audience members should exhibit extreme caution in subjecting themselves to the movie’s graphic violence and emotional turmoil of the movie. Pulling no punches, the filmmakers truly capture the harrowing stress of a hijack situation. NEERJA has some strong moral elements, but it also contains some extreme violence and references to Hinduism, karma and astrology. Extreme caution is advised.


(PaPaPa, BB, FRFR, C, VVV, A, D, M) Very strong mixed pagan worldview with strong moral elements about doing the right thing mixed with Hindu elements such as mother says, “We must have had good Karma” to have heroine for a daughter, mother talks about daughter now being immortal, and mother says daughter’s horoscope foretold how she would be a shining light, plus a solid redemptive element of sacrificing your life for others; no foul language, but a child urinates his pants during the chaos of the flight; strong and very strong violence throughout the movie including multiple instances of passengers being threatened at gunpoint, shoving, kicking, and hitting hostages including women and children, blood splatters onto heroine’s face when a passenger is executed, dead body falls and can be seen with blood on the ground, another passenger is executed in a bloody fashion, the third act escalates to a battle-like sequence that includes terrorists riddling the plane and passengers with bullets from automatic weapons, someone stabs another passenger with knitting needles, three instances of grenade explosions onto people, another person is shot in the arm, a final passenger is shot multiple times in the back in a dramatic fashion; the terrorists are seen drinking; the terrorists smoke; and, heroine has a failed marriage and terrorists believe they are justified in their actions.

More Detail:

NEERJA is the heartbreaking true story from India about a 22-year-old flight attendant, who risks her life to save 360 passengers aboard a hijacked plane. Through an exceptionally written script and an incredible performance by Sonam Kapoor, NEERJA grips viewers from start to finish, but the movie’s moral elements are marred by references to Hinduism, karma, astrology, and by some extreme violence.

Neerja Bhanot was a young flight attendant and model, who had her entire life ahead of her. The first scene of the movie shows her dancing and singing, telling everyone she meets that “life should be big, not long.” Her parents want only the best for her, and she’s in love with her best friend Jaideep. She leaves for a routine flight with hopes of marriage and her 23rd birthday.

Things go wrong almost immediately. Four Libyan terrorists seize the plan and take all 380 passengers hostage until their demands are met. The pilots flee the plane as soon as Neerja informs them the plane has been hijacked. Being the head purser on the flight, Neerja is now the highest ranked crew member aboard. She is determined to do everything in her power to protect her fellow flight attendants and the passengers, no matter the danger to her own safety.

In a well-written script, Neerja stands out as the true hero of the harrowing incident. The writers keep the story moving, and the director doesn’t pull punches when it comes to depicting the truly terrifying and exasperating terrorist ordeal. This depiction can get extremely disturbing and hard to watch at times, and audiences should use extreme caution especially with young children, not just for the movie’s violent content but the emotional journey as well. To the credit of the filmmakers, it is absolutely gut-wrenching to see the emotional and physical struggles Neerja had to endure. As the movie recounts the story of her bravery, it becomes clear why she has received the highest medals of honor throughout the world, including India and the United states.

The movie is much more than a simple account of what happened on that fateful day. Artfully peppered throughout the movie are flashbacks of Neerja’s past life. Stories of her failed marriage, modeling career and loving family allow the filmmakers to present a full character in Neerja, not simply a national hero. These flashback scenes provide a much needed respite from the intense, escalated environment of the hostage situation. Many scenes of the terrorists threatening and ultimately killing passengers are tough to watch, so it’s nice to step away from the chaos to dive into her character. Regrettably, many of these flashbacks seem a bit over-romanticized, complete with slow motion moments set to deep music. The basic story itself is deeply tragic and moving, so the filmmakers didn’t need to go to such lengths to convince audiences Neerja’s life was worth living.

Throughout the movie, Neerja operates from a simple aphorism, “Don’t ever do or tolerate something that’s wrong.” The tagline of the movie is “Fear gave her courage.” Obviously, the movie has strong messages of bravery, courage and standing up for what’s right. Neerja ultimately sacrifices her life to save the majority of the plane’s passengers. No matter what religion or worldview, there is no argument that the filmmakers were right to honor Neerja for her exceptional bravery.

Upon closer look, however, the movie doesn’t attribute Neerja’s actions to God. Neerja herself is seen praying at the beginning, but neither her character nor the movie attribute her strength to any higher power. Most of her motivation comes from flashbacks of her father throughout the movie. Being an Indian movie filmed in Mumbai and spoken in Hindi, the movie has strong Hindu elements. Neerja’s mother speaks of their “good karma” in having Neerja as a daughter. She also says Neerja’s horoscope foretold that she would be a shining light. Because of these elements and the movie’s scenes of intense, extreme violence, MOVIEGUIDE® advises extreme caution.

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