War review: Cliched spy thriller story tropes rob Hrithik Roshan, Tiger Shroff’s War of its epic status

A promising first half  goes to waste as poor plot, tricks in the second half drag this war down

Rating: 2.5 / 5

By Mayur Lookhar

Tiger Shroff an Hrithik Roshan in War (2019)

A war on Gandhi Jayanti.   Far from an ideal tribute to Mahatma Gandhi, a champion of peace, non-violence.   But a celluloid war between Hrithik Roshan and Tiger Shroff would have had the late Mahatma, too,  licking his lips in anticipation of an epic battle.  Besides, it’s a favourable environment for war films to strike. Over the last few weeks, terrorism, nuclear threat has been talked about by world leaders at the recently concluded United Nations General Assembly.   Some of the spy, espionage thrillers – The Family Man (2019) and Bard of Blood (2019) – couldn’t have timed their release perfectly.  Director Siddharth Anand’s action-extravaganza focuses on terror threat both external and internal.  

Kabir Anand [Hrithik Roshan], Indian intelligence agency’s most trusted agent has gone rogue and needs to be neutralised before he can cause any colossus damage.  Agency chief Colonel Luthra [Ashutosh Rana] assigns this operation to Kabir’s prodigy Khaled [Tiger Shroff].  

Kabir was the man who had taken out Khaled’s father, a traitor in the Indian armed forces. Khaled holds no grudge against Kabir, but he has to get rid of the family taint. While the disciple won’t hesitate in taking down his mentor, but he is still baffled as to why Kabir went rogue?

World over, spy thrillers are increasingly suffering from monotony. It’s the visual effect, action that separates the good ones from the rest. Director Siddharth Anand and his co-writer Sridhar Raghavan throw up the familiar tropes – best agent turns rogue, nuclear missile threat, exotic locales, twists, and some high octane action.

At 156 minutes in duration, War can be exasperating, especially since the film meanders in the second half.  Hollywood has set the bar for spy thrillers with franchises such as James Bond, Mission Impossible, the Bourne series.  It has led to Indian fans having similar expectation from their spy, espionage thrillers.  Perhaps, it’s this burden of expectation that often sees Indian writers, filmmakers draw influence from the West.

Siddharth Anand’s War starts off as promising tale, but it peters out into a dull film with its predictable, dreary second half. Shooting at exotic locales, bone chilling action scenes are the key essentials to a spy thriller template, but innovation in writing is vital too. It’s here that Anand falters resorting to the usual spy thriller story tropes – personal loss, betrayal, nuclear threat, science (cosmetics).  

The action choreography, led by The Dark Knight (2008) stunt coordinator Paul Jennings, does throw up few  pulsating sequences, but Indians films seldom go the extra mile.  War has a The Dark Knight-like aerial action sequence but the visual effect is not as compelling as the Christopher Nolan film.  

At 45, Hrithik Roshan finally gets a true blue action flick, but he’s lacks the agility of his youth. Roshan though is impressive in the ground combat scenes. While he’s no Bond or Ethan Hawke in action, Roshan’s compelling in emoting the different shades to Kabir.  The director has given his surname to Kabir but doesn’t arm him with wily tricks.  Roshan’s star power and sincere effort though drives this War.

It’s a dream come true for Tiger Shroff to share the screen with his childhood hero.  Tiger has his little fanboy moments, but Khaled doesn’t take a step back while confronting Kabir.  Young, athletic and more skilled, Shroff displays his action prowess in the business end.  However, a few sequences from his first fight in Iraq looks tacky on the screen.  Siddharth Anand does well to tap into Shroff’s action skills, and works around his limitations as an actor.

Vaani Kapoor is no Bond girl. She has a small but critical role as Naina, an army officer’s daughter who earns her living through odd jobs in exotic lands.   She’s sloppy in her dance [Ghungroo Song] and unconvincing in her brief act too.  If this writer recalls well, perhaps Naina’s daughter Ruhi [Dishita Sehgal of Hindi Medium (2017) fame] has an equal or more footage than her mother.

Anand lays too much emphasis on his principal characters, but disappoints with his antagonists – Riyaz Ilyasi (Sanjeev Vatsa), Faiz Contractor (Mashhoor Amrohi)  and Saurabh (Yash Raaj Singh). There are terrorists, terror financiers, traitors but the poor casting here jolts War.  There’s more to these characters than it meets the eye.  We leave the audience to decipher the antagonists and their suspense themselves.  While Vatsa is decent, Yash Raaj Singh and Mashhoor Amrohi put up a disappointing show.

Commercial constraints force filmmakers to accommodate songs in spy thrillers too.  Composer duo of Vishal-Shekhar throw up a decent dance number in the Ghungroo Song but the Jai Jai Shiv Shankar track [no remake of Kishore Kumar, Lata Mangesh classic from Aap Ki Kasam (1974)] is extremely poor.   Indian agents also have to bear the burden of singing and dancing too. 

The War theme (instrument) is highly gripping.  Sanchit and Ankit Balhara’s background score is engaging in certain parts but too loud and misfit for the crucial climax scenes.

The exotic locales – Italy, Malta, Finland, Morocco, Portugal- have their natural visual appeal but cinematographer Benjamin Jasper doesn’t provide with too many captivating visuals. The one impressive visual that springs to mind is the bike chase sequence with Khaled on the heels of Kabir.  The image of Khaled tumbling off his speeding bike is captured nicely, with the camera perhaps fitted to his bike.

No technical brilliance, but War had the potential to be a world class Indian action thriller but the poor storyline in the second half robs Hrithik Roshan, Tiger Shroff’s War of its epic status.

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