War  Review – A Surprisingly Entertaining Bollywood Actioner
I never imagined I would say this but Siddharth Anand’s ‘War (2019)‘ is a truly pulpy entertainer that casually reinvents Bollywood action films. Sure, the plot is still pretty basic wafer-thin stuff, but the action is genuinely investing. I mean, I haven’t seen a Bollywood film taking its action as seriously as this one does. Be it the large-scale mid-air plane sequence or just one on one bone-crunching fistfights, the film never puts the audience in a dumbfounded state. Moreover, the meta-bromance that spurs between its two leads, hangs this film in a state of cockiness that keeps channeling it past the finishing line in spite of the hiccups.
‘War’ is a film that has both patriotism and religion at its core but unlike its counterparts, most of it is handled with nuance. The central conflict between it’s two greek gods is always at the forefront. This is especially surprising seeing how most films in the past two years end up taking its self-proclaimed nationalism too literally. Siddharth’s film takes the standard Bharat-Jihad duel and twists it around a narrative of mutual adoration and deceit. In a crackling casting choice, Anand puts the mentor and the protégé in a cinematic flux, juicing out swag and charisma in dollops.
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Kabir (Hrithik Roshan) has gone rogue. His latest mission was to fetch a most-wanted man back home but when multiple backfires and deceits happen, he is left to do things on his own. The opening shows that Kabir has changed sides and is killing the intel and high-end officers of his own country. Khalid (Tiger Shroff) who has adored and kept Kabir on high grounds is more shocked than angry. His question isn’t transfixed on catching Kabir (though that is of course on the agenda) but to know what made him take this crucial step of betraying his country.
The narrative is muddled with elaborate flashbacks that show us Khalid’s side of the story. His reasons to join the squad and prove himself and the threat that is hanging over the country in the form of this chameleon, one-note criminal who hasn’t be caught yet. However, these flashbacks are also riddled with tons of oomph and show where Roshan’s Kabir (where the actor’s charisma overpowers the character itself) walks in slow-mo, smirks and glides along with his chiseled muscular body. Everyone including Khalid and the audience is just happy enough to witness the actor is all his distinctive beauty.
Most sequences in the first half of the film play out as Khalid’s adoration for Kabir grows. This is the high-point of the narrative that later breaks this meta-bromance between Shroff’s real-life admiration of Roshan. The other half works as a clear-sighted hand-over of the action star giving out his legacy to the only one who truly deserves it. However, in doing so the film also confirms Roshan’s screen-charisma is still unmatchable and the protégé is still in line to get there.
The film is not too heavy or complicated when it comes to the plot. The standard issues are wrapped in a pretty standard imitation of Mission-Impossible peppered with Bollywood-esque emotional conceits. The dance numbers still puncture the plot by dissing the momentum and there’s a ton of over the top investigation that serves little purpose. But the twists that form a bigger chunk of the second half are also surprisingly well-earned. Their implausibility will depend on where a viewer comes from. As far as pulling the rug is concerned, the writers ensure that the changes can be equated with what the viewer has seen in hindsight. Making them seem intelligent in spite of how silly they might sound later.
There’s no point discussing the ladies because this testosterone-fueled action ride is so full of bromance that it actually borderlines homoeroticism. ‘War‘ is an extravaganza that pays extra attention to the detailing in the action sequences. None of them are marred by jarring camera movements or over the top Bollywoodization that feels like they could only exist in an alternate reality. Thus makes ‘War’ a big step forward for actioners in the realm of Hindi cinema.