Imagine Steven Spielberg’s Munich being remade in Bollywood and directed by Prabhudheva. That would be an equivalent of what Phantom turns out to be. With all logic and realism tossed out of the window, Phantom strides on in the most heroic fashion providing the viewer some non-stop entertainment. This is not the kind of film which is high on drama or one which aims to cater to your intellect. It is clean and unabashed entertainment thrown at you in manner that even a 10 year old would easily understand. Apart from providing ample entertainment, the film does its share of Pak-bashing. Now that is something which always sells here in India.
Based on the book by Hussain Zaidi, the story unfolds after the 26/11 attacks. An agent at the RAW headquarters literally talks his boss into avenging the 26/11 attacks and they decide to send in one man to do the needful. Yes one man! If the Jews sent in a team, we could at least send in a couple but when the man is “Agent Vinod” who needs that many. Daniyal Khan (Saif Ali Khan) is a disgraced military officer who is lured into being the man on mission in exchange for full reinstatement in the army and a chance at winning back his father’s love and respect.
His mission is to eliminate all the men responsible for masterminding the 26/11 attacks. He starts off in great style killing the first two in England and US but he hits a roadblock when his attempts to infiltrate the Taliban is met with disdain. Nawaz Mistry (Katrina Kaif) is his only aid who is freelancing for RAW. She first helps him to get in touch with the Taliban in Syria and then helps him get into Pakistan after which they work in close proximity to kill the remaining two. What happens next? Will they be able to kill the terrorists, Will Daniyal and Nawaz come out of it alive? These are some of the questions which drives the narrative of Phantom.
Kabir Khan does a good job by concentrating on the mission and ironing out all other subplots. Unlike “Ek Tha Tiger” where he had to develop a love angle between Bhaijaan and Bhabijaan, this time around Agent Vinod in the absence of his Biwi remains focused on his mission alone while Bhabijaan doesn’t get to breakout into an item number. So we have 2 hours and 27 minutes of exhilarating indianized version of thrills which is characterized by fast cuts and absorbing action which never for once gets boring. The entire first half had me glued and I couldn’t take my eyes off the screen. The second half was no different however in the second half there are a few untoward scenes between Daniyal and Nawaz which could have been done away with but they don’t hurt much.
The planning and the methods used to eliminate the men are intriguing and they hit a considerable amount of roadblocks which makes it thrilling to watch. The narrative is able to generate tension and thrills every now and then. The film has songs but they all play in the background and that to for sparse durations not affecting the speed of the narrative one bit. Many have sighted that the film is oversimplified wish fulfillment fantasy at best. Isn’t a film with a tagline which reads “a story you wish was true” made to be that in the first place. To be able to enjoy this film you need to look at it from the entertainment’s point of view. As it narrates a fictional story, why the hell should I care whether it’s close to reality or not as long as it entertains? And entertain it does in style. There isn’t a single dull moment in the whole film and the fast twists and turns only make it that much more likeable.
I was always apprehensive about Saif playing a RAW agent but he surprisingly does a great job. He is focused in his role and keeps his charm out of the way making his character likeable. The best thing that I can say about Katrina is that she doesn’t bring her character down with her accent. She is still a terrible actress but moves well through the action sequences and even though she is petrified all throughout the film, she is able to pull her weight in Saif’s company. The rest of the cast are passable. But I have to give it to the casting team that they have successfully pulled out men who look like the perpetrators of the attacks. The villains are perfect and they are shown for just enough time for us to not find faults in them. Even though there are thrills aplenty, my favorite was the way Daniyal kills David Coleman Headley. The climax wasn’t bad either.
For Phantom, I say this, shrug off all negative reviews that you might be hearing about this film and give it a watch. I assure you that you will not be disappointed. Take it for what it is. Don’t expect it to be one of those documentary style dramas with high detailing and Oscar worthy performances. This one is pure entertainment. This film will amuse you and you will truly wish that the story shown here was true.