Free Press Journal

Movie Review: Phantom – Shadow boxing across enemy lines



Cast: Saif Ali Khan, Katrina Kaif, Mohammad Zeeshan Ayyub, Rajesh Tailang, Denzil Smith, Kaizaad Kotwal, Mohbanoo Kotwal Mody, Sohaila Kapur

Director: Kabir Khan

Rating: * * ½

Runtime:136 mins

This one’s not a very assertive or confident display of spy action thrills. It’s quite nondescript and timid in assay even though it ply’s an all-too-obvious, copious nationalistic sentiment and fervor.  Based on S Hussain Zaidi’s best-selling fictional novel ‘Mumbai Avengers,’ this Kabir Khan film coming close on the heels of his own mammoth hit, the Salman Khan starrer ‘Bajrangi Bhaijaan,’ gets off to a flying start. Opening with disgraced army officer Daniyal Khan (Saif Ali Khan) getting involved in a mid-highway fight that leads to a accidental murder. He is sentenced and incarcerated in a Chicago prison. Minutes later we learn from flash-backs and flash forwards that this was a planned set-up to engineer the assassination of the 26/11 mastermind Damien Bradley.

We soon learn that a disgraced Daniyal, who was once dismissed from army service for desertion, gets a second chance when RAW is on the lookout for someone anonymous enough to play an expendable undercover assassin for the country. His first act as undercover assassin is to bump off Sajid Mir in London with inadvertent help from Nawaz Mistry (Katrina Kaif), an ex RAW operative who now moonlights as a security consultant  for Medicine International- a sort of fictional Red Cross Society. A reluctant Nawaz Mistry is again roped in to help  with the next series of undercover assassinations of Sabhuddin Umavi and Haaris Saeed in Syria and Pakistan. And in between all those chases, firing and assorted hoopla, there are fleeting whiffs of a tepid romance brewing between Daniyal and Nawaz.

The entire exposition, set-up and development is so random and flaky as to make everything look just a little too easy for comfort. The obviousness and glaring trail of clues left behind just don’t allow for any believeability either. There’s absolutely no depth in the narration and the political context is pretty much circumstantial. The nuclear issue is not even raked up even though that has been the biggest deterrent to any possible covert operation across the border. The premise exists as a one-point agenda – regaining lost pride by assassinating the four big ones (in real life Hafiz Saeed, Zaki-ur-Rehmaan Lakhvi, David headley and Sajid Mir) but the execution of it doesn’t pass muster. The counter-insurgency operation launched by RAW appears a little too amateurish and opportunistic even though the job gets done anyway. And that’s really the problem here. Other than lip service and smart talk there’s little to show that this could happen in reality too.

It’s obvious that this film sets out to replenish Nationalistic pride dented by the heinous and daring attacks of 26/11. Unfortunately Saif’s daring-do doesn’t measure up on any yard stick. Saif gets into Agent Vinod shoes but doesn’t have the athleticism, malleability or the punch to make it look good here. He comes off as a little too stiff and uncoordinated in the action sequences. Kaif is there to glam up the spy routine and she does pretty well on that front. As an undercover spy she is also not up to scratch- a little too porcelain pretty to get down, dirty and hurtful.The music is plaint, the background score is non-intrusive while the editing is choppy and the cinematography, fluent.

 The script lacks in-depth factual support while the dialogues seem a little too pedestrian. The real problem though is Zaidi’s book itself. There are so many gaps in the telling of this fictitious tale that one would be hard pressed to believe in it entirely. – even if one wants to desperately. After all Nationalism minus factual responsibility is just another word ..isn’t it!