Tiger Zinda Hai doesn’t inspire much confidence in India’s Research & Analysis Wing if they’re shown reaching out to a former Super-Spy, presumed dead for the last eight years, to lead their most urgent mission. Frankly, what should one make of this? They have no one on their roster with a similar set of skills? And what if Bhai said no? It makes me very afraid for our safety.
So it’s a good thing Salman Khan aka Tiger can be persuaded out of retirement, enjoying life with his former-ISI agent wife Zoya (Katrina Kaif), when 25 Indian nurses must be evacuated from a terror group’s base in Iraq before the US launches an airstrike that will wipe out the bad guys and everything and everyone within a close radius.
Tiger Zinda Hai is an improvement on 2012’s Ek Tha Tiger whose simplistic politics of the region and cringey central romance distracted from some decent action sequences. Loosely based on true events, the new film, however, is a slick affair, and although the politics is still simplistic, director Ali Abbas Zafar goes balls-out with the action, kicking things off with an impressive Bhai-versus-a-pack-of-wolves sequence in the Austrian Alps.
The actor, in fact, is in pretty good form, sporting stubble to convey age and maturity, and the sort of puffed-up torso that makes him look like a life-size GI Joe toy. In one of the bits that got maximum applause from the audience in my cinema, a shirtless Salman sprays bullets at a phalanx of bad guys, full Rambo-style. Zafar, who directed the far superior Sultan last year, allows his leading man to play to the gallery, giving him multiple slow-motion entry shots and clap-trap lines.
The grand rescue plan involves Tiger and his hand-picked team of experts (a sniper, an explosives guy, and a techie) sneaking into an oil refinery in Iraq, then making their way to the hospital where terrorist leader Abu Usman (Sajjad Delafrooz) is holding the nurses captive. It’s a race-against-time mission, and the makers cram the film with jingoistic patriotism, an India-Pakistan brotherhood angle, and multiple instances of a woman saving the day.
What’s interesting is that this cocktail somehow works. Logic and subtlety are sacrificed at the altar of spectacle and sentiment. The characters are painted in broad brushstrokes, and the supporting cast – including Paresh Rawal as an Indian fixer – turn in serviceable performances. Katrina gets some terrific action moments and she executes them well, but make no mistake, the heavy lifting here is left to Salman Khan, and he’s clearly up for the challenge.
Tiger Zinda Hai is way too long at 2 hours and 41 minutes, but it packs some thrilling action and a beloved leading man presented in just the manner that the fans seem to want to see him.
I’m going with three out of five.
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