Director: Siddharth Anand
Cast: Hrithik Roshan, Tiger Shroff, Vaani Kapoor, Soni Razdan and Anupriya Goenka
For those that will buy a ticket simply to gawk at the collective handsomeness of its leading men, War gives you your money’s worth. Hrithik Roshan and Tiger Shroff practically burn up the screen when they’re matching steps in synchronized dance numbers, or going brawn for brawn when pitted against each other in fight scenes. Yet you can’t shake off the feeling that any film starring these two talented and genetically blessed movie stars should be smarter and more thrilling that this one that they decided to make.
Hrithik plays Kabir, the Intelligence Bureau’s star field agent, who, as it turns out, has gone rogue and is killing Indian officers. The responsibility to take him out is reluctantly tasked on Khalid (Tiger Shroff), because, as their boss puts it, “You love him”. Khalid is Kabir’s protégé, and he worships him. But he promises that when the time comes he won’t flinch from pulling the trigger.
It’s an interesting premise, but director Siddharth Anand, who has also co-written the film’s story and screenplay, seems ill-equipped to build on it. Much of the movie plays out like a cat-and-mouse chase across slick foreign locations. The camera pans lovingly across gorgeous landscapes – from Malta and Marrakech to Portugal and Sydney – as if to remind us that this is a costly affair. Yet the problem with the film is that it’s barely held together by a script that seldom rises above the predictable; there’s a complete lack of originality or inventiveness. From standard-issue movie villains (namely Islamic terrorists plotting to blow up India) to Hollywood-inspired tropes (like face-swapping surgeries to fake one’s identity), there is little in the writing that feels fresh.
The heavy lifting here is done by the action directors (four of them!) who stage impressive set pieces that somewhat make up for the lackluster plotting. There’s a bike chase in Europe, there are sports cars vrooming across an icy terrain in the Arctic, and an especially thrilling “Mission Impossible”-style stunt involving two planes mid-air and Hrithik in Ethan Hunt mode. The actors fully commit to the action, bringing swag to the big stylish sequences and a visceral energy to the one-on-one punch-ups.
Both leading men recognize that the film relies heavily on their individual star wattage, and the chemistry they can drum up together. Hrithik, all smirk and swagger, dials up the charm as Kabir, wearing his sexiness on his sleeve. The flecks of grey in his temples, the lines on his face hint at a hard-won life. Khalid, meanwhile, played by Tiger, is brimming with the earnestness of youth. He attacks his scenes with unmistakable sincerity, proving a nice foil to Kabir’s super confidence. It doesn’t hurt that he frequently loses his shirt, revealing those rock-hard abs that evoked a collective sigh from the audience in my cinema.
The women, alas, have little to do, reduced to mere ‘types’. Soni Razdan is The Worrying Mother, Vaani Kapoor is The Love Interest. Only Anupriya Goenka gets a shot at playing a character; she’s an analyst in Kabir’s team. But the film makes no pretensions of diversity or representation. This is a testosterone-filled ride and it’s only concerned with keeping its male stars jumping through all manner of hoops and looking good in the process.
Now it’s true that no one comes to watch an action film for its complex plot or layered characters. But War is disappointing even by the typically low expectations from an action film. Did it really have to be so dumb? Did the big twist have to be so unconvincing? Given the big name talent attached, the size and scale of production involved, one can only put it down to laziness.
If only the writers brought their A-game like the actors did.
I’m going with two-and-a-half out of five for “War”. It’s too long at 136 minutes. Come on, how much can you take of a beefcake buffet!
Rating: 2.5 / 5