War (2019)

Rating: B-

Dir: Siddharth Anand
Star: Hrithik Roshan, Tiger Shroff, Ashutosh Rana, Vaani Kapoor

Well, there’s certainly a lot of… stuff taking place here. It begins with top RAW agent Major Kabir Dhaliwal (Roshan) going rogue, and killing his handler. Dispatched to stop Kabir is his colleague Captain Khalid Rahmani (Shroff), who has a lot of history with the fugitive. Khalid’s soldier father was a traitor, whom his mother turned in, and was subsequently shot by Kabir. Khalid has been trying to prove himself ever since – not least to Kabir. To be honest, their relationship sometimes feels a bit homoerotic: they spend more time gazing into each other’s eyes, than is normal for partners in action movies. This gayness is enhanced by Khalid occasionally looking like a  Bollywood version of George Michael. 

Otherwise, there’s a lot of back and forth in the time-line, so pay attention. We eventually find out Kabir was obsessed with the capture of terrorist mastermind Rizwan Ilyasi. A previous attempt to capture Rizwan failed due to a mole in Kabir’s team, and that may not be the only person whose loyalties are suspect. So is Kabir’s apparent rogue behaviour what it seems, or is there something more complex at play? Given this runs 156 minutes, you can probably figure out the answer to that. It also involves a hard drive, missiles, a beautiful informant (Kapoor) and her young daughter, multiple instances of plastic surgery, and a great deal of globe-trotting, with scenes shot in Portugal, Italy, Finland, Sweden, Switzerland, Georgia and Australia.

It does feel overfilled and is likely a case where less would be more. Seven minutes could be saved by cutting the pair of musical numbers, which feel awkwardly spliced in, add nothing, and are instantly forgettable. On the plus side, the action is generally effective and well-handled. The producers brought in overseas help, including Paul Jennings, who said that what he loved about working in Bollywood is, “You can do things which push the boundaries of believability right to the edge.” No kidding. Right from the first time we see Khalid, an extended “one-shot” (quotes used advisedly, I suspect), this skates on the edge of “I’m so sure…”. It is probably fractionally more restrained than Fast X. However, its lunacy is played just as straight-faced.

We suffer something of an awkward shift in viewpoint, in that you start off with Khalid looking like the main character, only to switch to Kabir in the second half. The reason eventually becomes clear, and you might actually get there ahead of the film: there are enough clues scattered, you could put the pieces together. It all build towards a missile cruiser in the middle of the Arctic ice, from where hero and villain whizz off in sports cars (!), for a chase across the ice that suddenly becomes a Finnish forest (!!), before crashing into a church (!!!) or something, where they have their final brawl. How you react to that sentence, likely determines whether or not you’ll enjoy this slab of bombastic Bollywood.