Synopsis – A disgraced Indian soldier carries out a series of assassinations in the hope of restoring his honour.
My Take – Firstly let me get this out of the way – this Kabir Khan directed film is NOT an Anti Pakistan movie!! I don’t understand why people are criticizing the movie based on the trailers, may be they are trying to be politically correct or there radicalism is just being hurt. The movie doesn’t say “All Muslims Are Terrorists” or “Pakistan Supports Terrorism” it’s just portraying an act of war against terrorism. On the plus side it also shows how people of Pakistan are also suffering due to these propagandists. Sure it shows some government agencies supporting such movements, but in no way it aims to tarnish any countries sovereignty. Personally I feel its America who should be offended by this film as it clearly names them behind most of the occurrences. This film is a fictional tale of how India could take justice for the 26/11 attacks in Mumbai, while there have been a couple of films made on the aftermath, this film is by far the most superior, and the one film you wish were true. Sure their are some similarities to Munich (2005) & Bollywood films like Baby or even D-Day, however the concept here is little more far fetched. Nevertheless what you see on the screen is quite eye grabbing from the first frame, mainly due to the fast paced screenplay. The story takes place eight years after the 26/11 attacks & how India has remained unsuccessful in apprehending the accused. When a terrorist crossing in from Nepal gets captured by the Indian army and confesses about another attack in a pre-planning stage by Laskhar. This is when RAW chief Roy (Sabyasachi Chakrabarty) driven by the ideas of a junior officer Sumit (Mohammed Zeeshan Ayyub) decide to send in a disgraced army officer aka ‘a Phantom’ Daniyal Khan (Saif Ali Khan) to kill the masterminds of 26/11 attacks. To help him in his hunt is ex agent now a UN refugee medical support Nawaz Mistry (Katrina Kaif), is tasked to help Daniyal identify the terrorists. Due to the unofficial nature of the mission, Daniyal Khan has to ensure killings look like accidents. Its time to bring some justice for India!
The film is India’s unapologetic, eye-for-an-eye answer to 26/11 attacks. Director Kabir Khan wanders into this impenetrable region (because of it’s boldness, controversial theme) where he touches the sensitive topic of 26/11. Khan successfully begins the film & mostly sustains the pace well, as the action is simply superb. The second-hour also engages you, with the final 30-minutes holding your attention completely. You root for the protagonist in his violent journey, which shifts from one country to another. However, Khan & Kausar Munir’s Screenplay, which has been adapted from Hussain Zaidi‘s book Mumbai Avengers, could’ve been smarter. The first-hour isn’t crisp, as some of the sequences are uneven & even the escapism in this tale, is a bit unbelievable at times. But, otherwise the Writing is solid. The narrative is fast-paced & offers enough scope for some relentless action, which certainly works. Well of course the film is no Mission Impossible (not that I am comparing this to the 100 million + production), its good to see director Kabir Khan (Kabul Express, New York, Ek Tha Tiger, Bajrangi Bhaijaan) evolve into one of the most sought out directors of our generation. All his films (except for the horrid – no doubt pay check movie called Ek Tha Tiger) have touched on controversial topics such as terrorism & peace. With this film he continues his winning strike. Yet unlike his other more grounded film, the negative here are quite a number. The writers dream up situations in which Khan’s character Daniyal Khan and Kaif’s Nawaz Mistry not only survive a gun battle between ISIS members and the Syrian army, but also deliver vigilante justice in the heart of Lahore. Well Bollywood will remain Bollywood of course. One big challenger to the film’s impossible mission is its timing. Nikhil Advani’s D-Day extracted a Dawood Ibrahim-like gangster from his hiding place and executed him back in 2013. Neeraj Pandey’s Baby, released earlier this year, avenged terror attacks on India by picking out the plotters in neutral territory. Both films depict crack teams of highly trained, committed and fearless individuals who put their nation’s honor over their own lives. Even though the film is not a fresh take on extremism, & may rank lower to the above mentioned films, but it sure does manage to leave an impact. It even offers you free trips from India to London to Beirut to Syria to Chicago to Jordan faster than you could flip an atlas. The scenes where Daniyal Khan kills the commander of L.E.T are well written and well executed! Even though the protagonists fall in love, the good thing about the film is that it avoids degenerating into a romance with unnecessary displays of love and meaningless songs — though Arijit Singh‘s Saware at the end of the film is a good listen.
Even the one wedding song was made an essential part of the mission. Saif Ali Khan is surprisingly refreshing in an action packed Rambo role, he is a one man army, and does great. He plays a more toned down/ less James Bond version of his character from Agent Vinod. With some down right commercial failures like entertaining Happy Ending, the horrid Humshakals, the disappointing Bullet Raja & the unfairly rejected Go Goa Gone, Saif is in a tough position in his career, this film should the do the trick for him. Katrina Kaif, with her very limited acting capabilities & glam doll personality, does justice to her role & is quite believable in her action scenes. Among the supporting roles, its Mohammed Zeeshan Ayyub & Sabyashachi Chatterjee who stand out. If India cannot capture its foreign enemies in real life, what is stopping Hindi filmmakers from doing so in their scripts? This film is the latest Bollywood movie to wage war on behalf of the Indian state and give unsolicited advice to the government and intelligence agencies on how they can do their jobs better. The writers also shows how people in Pakistan are not in support of these kind of people (which is a good thing!). Even though LET chief Hafiz Saeed is rechristened as Harris Saeed, the physical resemblance is striking enough (no wonder he is creating all this fuss & calling foul) to cheer dispirited Indian taxpayers who have been vexed by the same question that has haunted filmmakers of late: Why can’t we be like America and Israel and hunt down our enemies? Israel went after the Palestinian terrorists involved in the deaths of 11 of its Olympic team members in Munich in 1972, while America avenged the September 11, 2001, attacks by gunning down Al Qaeda chief Osama Bin Laden in his Pakistani hideout in 2011. Both these events were fodder for Hollywood movies. While, the film has been banned in Pakistan, from what I could gather while watching this film with an open mind, it has tried to balance the point of view of both countries concerning the Mumbai attacks in 2008. On the whole, ‘Phantom‘ is a gritty, raw action thriller, and it works on almost all accords. Even though the film isn’t entirely power-packed, or in comparison to the Neeraj Pandey directed Baby, far more unrealistic and far fetched, its scores high on its pluses for being a a taut insightful entertaining film.
Director – Kabir Khan
Rated – U/A
Run Time – 136 minutes