hrithik tiger

Hrithik Roshan and Tiger Shroff star in Yash Raj Films’ “War.” (photo provided)

MUMBAI — It’s all about Kabir (Hrithik Roshan), the best agent India has, and his protégé Khalid (Tiger Shroff), son of an army officer who turned traitor and was killed by Kabir. Reluctantly, at the behest of his superior, Colonel Luthra (Ashutosh Rana), Kabir includes Khalid in his team, but Khalid, all set to erase the stigma his family has acquired, proves himself as a die-hard patriot and soldier.

In any case, he adores and almost worships Kabir. Soon, Kabir accepts him well.

Their main mission as of now is to catch Ilyasi (Sanjeev Vasta), but it’s a long and tortuous trail to the supposedly respectable businessman in the Middle-East, who is planning something terrible for India. And then, suddenly, Kabir turns rogue, killing the espionage team’s official Naidu (Mohit Chauhan) instead of the terrorist Naidu orders him to shoot.

There is only one remedy for a traitor of that intelligence — he must be eliminated. Khalid insists he is given the job as he knows how Kabir thinks, but Kabir is always that one step ahead. And there are (lots of) wheels within (lots of) wheels. The game gets even dicier as Kabir actually encounters Khalid in the metro train and asks him a vital question.

In the post-interval segment, we encounter Naina (Vaani Kapoor) who dances in clubs abroad to dream of having a cushy life as single mom to her daughter, who is now kept in boarding school. Kabir is keeping a watch on one Feroz Contractor (Mashhoor Amrohi) who is connected as per Intel to Ilyasi. This man is a die-hard fan of Naina and Kabir decides to use Naina to get to him.

But why does Kabir, a renegade, want Ilyasi? Does Khalid reach Kabir? What are the twists and turns in their relationship? The film takes myriad twists and turns for a cracker finale that somehow isn’t—the climax is rather long-drawn affair stretched to needless, in fact, absurd lengths. The post-climax is a clear cry for a sequel, but hey, this ain’t either “Dhoom” or the “Tiger” franchise: it will take a great concept, loads of imagination, mammoth talent and hard work to come up with a script that will again have two protagonists at war.

The main flaws in the film are its repetitiousness in so many sequences resulting in the other avoidable gaffe—excessive length (2.36 hours). To be sure, this kind of action and scripts ensured success for earlier espionage or anti-terrorist stories when backed by big stars. But today, the audience’s patience level is by no means what it was even five years back.

The minor absurdities also add up—how easily Kabir taps Feroz’s room, the silly way in which Naina inserts a pen drive into the enemy’s laptop as if it will auto-record the right documents, when Kabir’s instructions are to put it in and activate what is needed for 30 seconds, and how Feroz has known it all along what was to happen, which is illogical given who the betrayer is.

The artificial emotions created with Naina’s daughter or with Khalid’s mother’s arrival at the team’s HQ do not really enhance the vital Emotional Quotient of the film. The very reason why Kabir turns rogue is finally totally uncalled for, and his mid-air shenanigans, doubtlessly shot in a spectacular manner, emerge almost callous.

There are other licenses with logic (which would be spoilers in some cases) beyond the obvious “Mission Impossible” kind of chases, explosions, rains of bullets and so on, but those can be ignored thanks to the lavish spectacle provided of action on sea, land, air and ice and breathtaking vistas of locales. Australian DOP Benjamin Jasper is in top form as one of the key and real heroes of the film in the way it is lensed. The other technical values are brilliant, whether in production design, make-up, costumes, VFX or most other post-production entities.

The background music (Sanchit Balhara, Ankit Balhara) is commendable, and visually, the song “Jai Jai Shiv Shankar” is captivating filmed. Despite the cacophonous sound, this song (Vishal-Shekhar) also works, while “Ghunghroo” is alright.

Of course, we have unfortunately—I think but hope not!—come too far from the era when composers focused on the composition, words and singing rather than beats, programming and production and when they ingeniously and determinedly scored musical magic when films had musically dry subjects!

The film gets a lot of help from its cast. Hrithik Roshan is stupendous—his acerbic, cynical, gritty Kabir is unforgettable, his expressions exceptional. Tiger Shroff has come ahead as an actor, though the director, sound engineer and Shroff himself should have ensured much better clarity in his lines, many of which are unclear or inaudible (in a state-of-the-art multiplex). Vaani Kapoor is a surprise despite her short and sketchy turn, and scores effectively in projecting her vulnerability.

Mashhoor Amrohi makes a special impression as Feroz, and Anupriya Goenka (of “Tiger Zinda Hai”) makes a powerful mark yet again.

This is one of those films that will make a surefire box-office mark thanks to obvious aspects like its hype, promotions, time of release, charisma of the lead players, scale and mounting of production, and last but not least, escalated tiket rates. In merit, it deserves an above-average rating and scores high for its target audiences but the avoidable flaws can pull down what could have been unmitigated high potential as a blockbuster classic. Only the first of the two options—great business— will be fulfilled despite the kind of main whopper twist that could have zoomed it places.

Rating: ***1/2

Produced by: Aditya Chopra

Directed by: Siddharth Anand

Written by: Aditya Chopra, Siddharth Anand, Shriram Raghavan & Abbas Tyrewala

Music: Vishal-Shekhar

Starring: Hrithik Roshan, Tiger Shroff, Vaani Kapoor, Ashutosh Rana, Mashhoor Amrohi, Anupriya Goenka, Swaroopa Ghosh, Sanjeev Vasta, Soni Razdan, Arif Zakaria, Dipannita Sharma, Amit Gaur, Mohit Chouhan, Ravi Awana & others

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