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'War' film review: Hrithik Roshan and Tiger Shroff are woefully mismatched

'War' film review: Hrithik Roshan and Tiger Shroff are woefully mismatched

Tiger Shroff does the running around in War. On a mission in Morocco, he splits from his team and chases an unauthorized side quest over the rooftops of Marrakesh. Hrithik Roshan, in the meantime, holds his spot — a withered veteran too old to be hassled unnecessarily. The film is evidently in the thrall of the actor. At one point, a female soldier (Anupriya Goenka), on the verge of getting hitched to someone else, offers to bolt with Hrithik. “Abhi bhi time hai sir,” she teases, “We can run away.” Tiger, both shocked and a little crestfallen, rightly tells her to ‘get in line’.

Siddharth Anand’s film had promised an epic face-off between two of the biggest action stars of India. We get a bit of that — two chases and a scuffle, to be precise — but the rest is just unchecked Hrithik worshipping. It also doesn’t help that Tiger, an outspoken Hrithik devotee, spends all his time swooning over his childhood idol. The result? A film that’s undeniably good-looking, but majorly deficient in the antagonistic charm of a balanced ‘two hero’ movie. Hrithik plays Kabir, an Indian soldier who has turned against his state. Instead of targeting international terrorists, he is taking out his own people. To bring him down, Kabir’s former student Khalid (Tiger) is handed the manhunt.

This sets off a steeplechase of twists and turns, shot lavishly across Europe and served up with the usual smattering of Hindi film emotions: Soni Razdan as Khalid’s pining mother; Kabir’s heroic entry framed against a flowing National Flag. Around midway, Vaani Kapoor turns up in a coral bikini, and that’s when the narrative contrivances really begin to show.

As a potential mole, Vaani’s character is termed a ‘civilian asset’ by Kabir — a description equally apt for the featherweight female characters Bollywood churns out each year. Her arc is barely essential to the plot and exists solely to equip Kabir with a backstory. This is the biggest delusion of War: a big-budget action epic that unsuccessfully tries to humanize its brawn, making the runtime drag. There a few grace notes. The ambush on a military airbus is neatly assembled.

Paul Jennings (The Dark Knight) is one of the four action directors on the project, and you can see his mark on the extended bike chase in Portugal. Tiger leaves it all on the field, shining out in hand-to-hand combat scenes that play without music or run for long takes. Hrithik, for his part, stays too wrapped in his own mythology. Twice in the middle of a tense sequence, he stops to grin inwardly, as though aroused by his own invincibility in the face of Hindi screen danger.

At a grinding 156 minutes, War runs out of steam. We hear about missile attacks and enemy invasions, but the stakes are never high. There’s a ridiculous twist near the end that alone sullies the film’s sturdy production design. Siddharth does a fine of putting together the expensive set-pieces, but lacks the storytelling craft to make it all seem cohesive. Despite the toughness of its leading men, the film tires them out with its convoluted writing — which, I am afraid, is the only villain in this skirmish. The rest are just in it for the money.

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