Film: PhantomCast: Saif Ali Khan, Katrina Kaif, Mohammed Zeeshan Ayub
Directed by: Kabir Khan
Duration: 2 hrs 27 mins
Rating: * *
After Kabul Express, Ek Tha Tiger and very recently Bajrangi Bhaijan, director Kabir Khan is on familiar terrain again with Phantom. Without a trace of doubt, this is his worst outing so far. The spark and drama of Bajrangi is not there and the fairly terse action drama of Ek Tha Tiger is missing. What we end up with is a screenplay which has as much fizz as a cola that has been left open for a week.
Based on Hussain Zaidi’s book Mumbai Avengers, Phantom is a cross between Agent Vinod and D-Day. The Sriram Raghvan film was superior because at least it had some interesting filmi references while D-Day was an enjoyable action thriller. Phantom is literally all over the place – Chicago, Syria, Pakistan we get to see it all. But what we miss is a screenplay that will keep us engaged.
The idea of an Indian secret agent going solo and striking against terrorists responsible for the 26/11 attack itself sounds like a daunting plot. Starting with a rather unnecessary chase on the streets of Chicago we are introduced in flashback to the man involved, Daniyal Khan (Saif Ali Khan). There is more than one explanatory flashback in the film and our directors still like to tell and show, sometimes the other way round. In a scene during the climax, we clearly see two dots on the radar screen retreating back towards Pakistan. Promptly, the officer says “Lagta hain yeh dono boat Pakistan ki taraf ja rahi hain” explaining verbally what has already been shown.
Katrina Kaif plays an agent working for an American company called Darkwater (an obvious reference to Blackwater) that supplies arms and takes up contracts in conflict zones. There is another of those silly background stories (with a flashback of course) as to why and how she landed up with such a job.
Meanwhile Daniyal Khan has been recruited on the sly by RAW. His job is to exterminate all those who are spreading terror in India. The fine actor Mohammed Zeeshan Ayub plays a newly recruited RAW agent who comes up with this idea. “Jab Pakistan hum pe hamla karta hain to zyaada se zyaada hum kya karte hain, sirf cricket khelna bandh kar dete hain.” Well, we have also started making fictional films on those attacks now.
There is David Headley who becomes Daniyal’s target along with the big fish Hafeez Sayyed (mentioned as Harris Sayyed in the film)
As far as the patriotism and jingoism is concerned, the film tries to walk the fine line but fails. In the process of attempting to be a crowd pleaser, it digs itself in a hole.
The shoddy screenplay is to be blamed and the direction doesn’t rise above the ordinary. You can’t have the hero strutting around like a fictional James Bond or Jason Bourne kind of character in a story that alludes to real life references. And it is also time for Saif Ali Khan to give up on such roles. It is a bit too late to play Rambo.
The effort to infuse some romance is so lame that a door and a latch have more chemistry than Saif and Katrina.
You will need lots of patience and the ability to withstand triteness if you encounter this Agent Rambo.
Published in The Navhind Times on 30th Aug 2015