Pakistani movie review: ‘Waar’ presents a new perspective to the war on terror

Debutant filmmaker Bilal Lashari focuses on showing the impact of terrorism on Pakistan

Pakistan is under siege from within.

A retired security agent is called back to duty to save the country.

The plot for ‘Waar’ isn’t novel, mostly because we have witnessed numerous fights against terror in Hollywood and on Indian celluloid, where macho agents indulge in daredevil stunts to fight extremists and save their countries.

So, debutant director Bilal Lashari’s ‘Waar’ (means ‘to strike’ in Urdu) isn’t original in theme, but it garners points for representing Pakistan in a light that’s not clichéd and one that focuses on its own battles against terrorists.

“Not every Pakistani is a terrorist,” vociferously endorses the hero of the action-thriller as he indulges every on-screen moment at gunning down those party to any heinous crime against humanity.

While director Bilal refuses to name any country for instigating such acts, he hints at the neighbouring country by showing the villain slipping into Pakistan from across the Indian border of Kashmir and highlighting a RAW (Indian intelligence) link. There are also references to “international involvement” and Taliban, but none that are fleshed out to leave any clue.

Writer Hassan Waqas Rana refuses to play politics and focuses on the patriotism instead.

At 135-minutes screen-time, however, his efforts do slip on many occasions, diluting the impact this thriller could have created. Numerous pauses, sub-plots, romantic angles and songs puncture the narrative considerably.

 ‘Waar’, which is mostly in English, captures Pakistani intelligence agents working tirelessly to fight menacing extremists as they scheme to harm their nation.

Retired agent Mujtaba (Shaan Shahid) is called back on duty to lead a battle against the evil Ramal (Shamoon Abbasi).

And, while he’s busy prepping his team of intelligence whiz Javeria (Ayesha Khan) and her trigger-happy brother Ehtesham (Hamza Ali Abbasi), there’s a parallel story that follows a wealthy politico-head Ejaz Khan (Ali Azmat) as he tries to change mindsets and bring about economic progress.

His efforts, however, are sidetracked by socio-activist Zoya (Meesha Shafi), for whom he willing surrenders his heart.

The rest of the screen time is devoted to the run-up to the “big terror plot”, which Mujtaba and his team must detect and defuse.

Barring the sluggish narrative, Bilal’s ‘Waar’ deserves applause for impeccably texturing the tone of the movie, and for colouring action sequences in such incredible strokes. The bloody battle isn’t all gore, but captured aesthetically.

The actors are well trained in handling ammunition, and the action sequences remarkably executed.

Shaan stands out as the husky Mujtaba. He brilliantly captures the pain of an officer who is relentlessly haunted by a bloody past that left him without a family. Shamoon too gives him a good fight, but a little indulgent character sketch for the two men would’ve proved far more impactful.

Ali Azmat is impressive as the ambitious politician. The image of him standing on his balcony and enjoying applause from an imaginary crowd is arresting.

Of the women, Meesha stands out with a far more effective screen-time than the rest. It’s her impromptu ballet-act that throws us off the hook.

While ‘Waar’ might not be the best action film ever, it’s still an interesting watch with some stunning visuals and an impressionable take on the “other side of the story”.
 

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