Once upon a time a man walked into a restaurant. He dressed himself to the nines, but those big pockets had little to no money in them. To coax out some free food, he walked up to the owner of the restaurant and began complimenting him. He started small by saying the restaurant looked like a fine establishment and smelled of great food. He followed that up by asking who the owner of such a beautiful eating establishment could be. When the owner of the restaurant pointed to himself, the man feigned surprise and began complimenting him. His plan was in motion.
War (no, seriously - this film's title is War) is an action movie (duh!). The two men caught in the middle of all this action are Kabir (Hrithik Roshan) and Khalid (Tiger Shroff). Kabir was once the best soldier, mercenary, hitman the Indian intelligence community had ever produced. Between his time as a soldier, mercenary, hitman Kabir found a way to mentor a bright and young Khalid. Kabir and Khalid went on missions together, eliminated terrible guys together, and danced together when not doing those activities above.
However, Kabir went ahead and ruined all those good times by going rogue and killing a whole bunch of people in the intelligence community. Khalid is now enlisted to find and eliminate his former mentor. A "war" ensues.
As soon as the man's first compliment landed on the owner's ear, the latter pulled a waiter close and told him to pack a masala dosa for the man. The man, enthralled that his plan was working, added another compliment — this time praising the owner's generosity. The owner had a beaming smile on his face. He turned to the waiter and requested a set of idlis and a vada with the dosa. The man heaped more praise on to the owner by referring to him as a businessman who is as intelligent as he is generous. Hearing a compliment which brought together the best of both worlds, the owner seemed overjoyed. He requested the waiter to pack in a serve of Kesari bath, pulihara and poori with a heaping helping of chutney, mashed potatoes and sambhar. The man couldn't believe his plan had worked so well.
The winning aspect of the so-called War is the pitch-perfect casting of Hrithik Roshan as Kabir. Siddharth Anand ages and grizzles up his main character by lacing Kabir with grey hair and a set of unmistakable scars. Kabir looks like a weary journeyman who has seen it all but retains the tenacity of a much younger man. The film moves at the pace of a bullet, leaving a gun when Kabir and his character take centerstage. Kabir ends people's careers and lives with the items in his war chest and his words. The downsides of the wafer-thin plot and its machinations seem to miss his ripped body like much of the villain's ammunition.
As the man sits down to patiently wait for his massive bounty of food, the owner, with a smile on his face, stands him up and asks him to leave the premises. The man, with a look of shock on his face, asks him about the food. The owner retorts, "Your words made my ears feel good, and in return, my words made you feel good. Now we're even. You may leave. Thank you for giving us a chance to serve you." The crestfallen man walked out of the restaurant retaining his empty pocket and empty stomach after being served a sizable slice of humble pie.
Every time the movie moves away from Kabir to explore its other characters and sub-plots, War's inherent shortcomings take centerstage instead of its characters. The plot is inspired by the Mission: Impossible / Bourne franchises. Tiger Shroff remains utterly one-dimensional as an actor. The "hype" score is both loud and forgettable. And finally, the catch-me-if-you-can dialogue is mediocre when compared to the compelling central character spouting them. War lacks a unique directorial signature.
As an example of directorial signature, we'd ask you to think back to a quieter sequence in Mad Max: Fury Road
. As Furiosa cleans her war-rig, the wives cut the chains connected to their chastity belts. The chastity belts have openings, but the openings have rows of sharp metal teeth on all sides. The design almost dares a fellow man to try his luck and test the strength of his manhood against some metal spikes. That, almost off-handed, contraption adds personality to a shot that could be one about a woman using a bolt cutter. And that is what makes Fury Road a masterpiece and War just another decent time at the movies.
The extent of War's depth is its refusal to refer to its intelligence enterprise as the Research and Analysis Wing aka RAW. But what do you get when you turn War around? Exactly. War is Raw and Raw is War. Hence, we have all the depth of a standard WWE storyline. As with a WWE storyline, the plot is only a construct used to mount some spectacular action set-pieces. War's plot is quite the same, and its action is quite thrilling as well.
As it does with the Tiger
franchises, Yash Raj Films displays its mastery over big-budget action extravaganzas. The studio has a knack for hiring the best people for a job and subsequently looking over their shoulders to see if the job they are doing is right. Their knowledge of what works and what doesn't, in this specific genre, is a welcome change when compared to a recent slew of big-budget action films we choose not to name. While those films had no style or substance, War has some style, if not much substance.
Think of the man complimenting the owner. They were just words. The owner received no plaque commending his work. Now, think of the owner pleasing the man with a false promise. It was just that, a false promise. False promises are just words and don't appease hunger. Now think of all the other times you've heard this story. The only difference we had to offer was using it as a metaphor in a different context. War is something similar. An age-old tale told to a different generation with a different meaning.
To everyone hearing this story for the first time, how we wish we could look at the world through your eyes.
P. S. It has come to our attention that Vaani Kapoor was in this film too. Please keep your eyes peeled to catch her.