Bollywood film review: Saif's 'Phantom' out of depth

Indian actor Saif Ali Khan with co-star Katrina Kaif while performing stunts during the filmming of 'Phantom'. (Supplied)

Fresh off the success of 'Bajrangi Bhaijaan', director Kabir Khan continues his love affair with Pakistan a month after his Salman Khan-starrer continues to garner accolades from critics and fans across borders.

However, following its ban in Pakistan, 'Phantom' is fresh out of luck on this front.

Crossing the threshold of jingoism at intervals and taking creative liberties that could perhaps upset a few sentiments along the way, 'Phantom' is a piece of fiction based on S Hussain Zaidi's crime thriller, ‘Mumbai Avengers'.

Some would argue, the key to the success of a gripping crime novel is its believability; a feat that has been proven by James Patterson with his Alex Cross series or even Robert Ludlum with the hugely successful Bourne trilogy.

Zaidi, on the other hand, appears to have found his prose better suited for Bollywood adaptations that border on the realm of make-believe and fantasy.

This is probably why 'Phantom's' director took inspiration from such a potboiler premise and packaged it for mainstream cinema.

Playing on the sentiments of one of the darkest incidents in India's recent history, viewers follow a convoluted plot involving a rogue group of agents from India who hatch a plot to avenge the death of the 166 people that were killed in one of the worst terrorist attacks on its soil.

Disgraced former army officer Daniyal Khan (Saif Ali Khan) is recruited to assassinate the masterminds behindMumbai's 26/11 attack, singling out the perpetrators as Sajid Mir, Damien Bradley, Sabahuddin Umavi and Haaris Saeed.

Khan teams up with Nawaz Mistry (Katrina Kaif) a security consultant and a RAW agent on the sly, to take down the quartet in a song and dance routine that perhaps makes stealing candy from a baby a feat more difficult in comparison.

Bodies blow up or roll over and die as Khan puts on his 'Agent Vinod' shoes to jet across India, London, Chicago, Beirut and some remote corner in Syria - all before the intermission rings out.

But what's the fun in killing terrorists on foreign soil these days?  The director, or perhaps Zaidi, may have had the same thought; hence, we follow the duo now infiltrating across the border in the film's second half to take down some more baddies.

Before you wonder, let's cut to the chase. Saif is no Salman Khan, nor does he appear phantom-esque in any shape or form as he maintains all of two expressions throughout the film. 

The actor's brilliance in films such as 'Omkara' or even 'Being Cyrus' cannot be denied; but Saif's 'Phantom' is a little out of depth in the gritty hand-to-hand combat scenes.

His ability to prove his prowess to the audience as a cold-blooded killer is even less believable; but full marks for effort.

Katrina Kaif is, well, herself really.

It appears Kabir Khan simply plucked her out of 'Ek Tha Tiger' and planted her in 'Phantom' with the instructions, 'do what you can'.

Mohammed Zeeshan Ayub Khan, who was the saving grace in last week's abysmal 'All is Well', gives another underrated performance as the Indian agent behind the whole hair-brained scheme.

What ultimately saves 'Phantom' from its implausible and sometimes contradicting sub-plots is the slick direction and deft editing.

The film doesn't lose pace along the way, flitting from one adventure to another in a series of jumps and leapfrogs that rescues its premise from one big misadventure. 

 

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