Phantom helmed by Kabir Khan is an efficacious edge-of-the seat thriller with enough twists and turns which not only keeps audience hooked in till the end credits roll out but also makes you believe in the movie's tagline i.e. "A story you wish were true". The movie raises a pertinent point in context to horrific 26/11 attacks that jolted the city of Mumbai in 2008. Phantom raises the point how justice has been denied to the victims with none of the masterminds behind the blast having been caught, let alone convicted despite Indian authorities knowing their names as well as their present locations. The point that Phantom seems to make is that it isn't just trained killing machines, but also the nation as a whole, that can, and should, do 'anything', concomitant damage be darned. Can't have hate-spewing terrorists hiding in our neighboring country threatening our sovereign nation, can we ? Phantom unabashedly reinforces the mainstream media's worst stereotypes and constantly plays on the collective fears of a populace that is only too willing to find and hang scapegoats for the troubles of our contentious times. There are numerous references to attacks of 26/11, U.S. killing Osama Bin Laden in Abbottabad (Pakistan), and to other actual figures and incidents that have made the headlines in recent times. It is pertinent to mention here that as a director, Kabir Khan has done thorough research on the subject before making this movie which reflects on-screen. Kabir Khan's 'Phantom' is a mixture of old school Bollywood formula, slick modern execution and bouts of intense suspense with some bombastic, social commentary. It has reasonably realistic depiction of spy work shot at some sane locales of Syria, Gulmarg, Oval cricket ground in Lambeth, Vancouver giving it much required authentic look. Phantom ups the body count and delivers the goods when it comes to gritty action, non-stop thrills coupled with style. What mainly works here is sense of urgency. The movie's protagonist sticks to the mission and even though he's larger than life, he remains in a fairly realistic mode. Overall, Phantom is perfectly eccentric action thriller - a seemingly intelligent slice of Cinema that delivers several crowd pleasing moments of action mayhem that include cocktail of chase scenes, intrigue and espionage.
STORY & SCREENPLAY (SPOILERS AHEAD) :: The movie is based on author Hussain Zaidi's book Mumbai Avengers on the aftermath of 26/11 Mumbai attacks. The story as well as screenplay of the movie have been penned down by Kabir Khan, Parveez Shaikh in coordination with Hussain Zaidi's book. The screenplay of the movie has got several layers attached to it with lot of thriller elements and surprises thrown in at several junctures which work superbly in favor of this flick. The film begins with actual footage of 26/11 shown on screen. Cut next, car of Daniyal Khan (Saif Ali Khan) is hit from behind by a person and a car chase ensues on streets of Chicago. After a heated argument and scuffle, the man is plunged into icy water of a river by Daniyal for which he is arrested. This is followed by an array of flashback sequences throwing light on Daniyal's past. Daniyal used to work for Indian army and after being court martialled, he is living a secluded life. Meanwhile, a Pakistani terrorist is caught trying to sneak in on Indian soil. India's RAW comes to know that Pakistan based terrorist group is planning another attack on India. When RAW's chief Roy (Sabyasachi Chakrabarty) is discussing about this with his team, a newly recruited sharp and intelligent RAW officer Samit Mishra (Mohammed Zeeshan Ayyub) comes up with a plan. He suggests that an operative be sent on a covert mission to eliminate all those masterminds who were behind 26/11 attacks. He believes that this would be a lesson for all the terrorist groups and would instill a sense of fear in them. Since this is a covert operation without the approval of Indian Govt., so no member of RAW would be involved in this and all the assassinations should look like natural or accidental deaths. They begin searching for the right man for this job and their search ends at Daniyal Khan. They choose him because Daniyal is an ex army officer who is not only trained enough to carry out this covert operation but also is off radar as he is living a secluded life. After much persuasion and to regain his past glory (dismissed from Army), Daniyal agrees to do the job. At the onset of mission, he catches up with Nawaz (Katrina Kaif) in U.K. Nawaz who earlier used to work for RAW, now works as a security consultant and also works on special assignments for Indian Intelligence. Nawaz helps Daniyal in tracking down his first target. Daniyal is ably successful in eliminating two of the perpetrators in US. and U.K. Soon, a chemistry develops between Daniyal and Nawaz who now enter Pakistan to kill the remaining and main perpetrators. Meanwhile, Pakistan Intelligence comes to know about Daniyal's involvement in the killings and his entry into Pakistan and they go all out to nab him. Will Daniyal be able to accomplish the mission, Will he and Nawaz be able to come out alive from Pakistan is what forms the rest of the story.
STARCAST :: I would like to applaud Honey Trehan (Casting Director) of Phantom for choosing the appropriate actors as per their characterizations. Each and every actor, however small his/her part might have been has been able to leave an impact while portraying the character on-screen. This is Saif Ali Khan's most credible performance in a long time, and reminds us the actor he can be. Saif stays true to his character, never once loosing control, be it in his expressions, demeanor or attitude. He's razor sharp and there's never a dull moment when he is on screen. From his dialogue delivery to his body language, Saif is spot on. Saif has fared exceptionally well during action sequences too. Katrina Kaif not only looks ravishing but also gets to prove her mettle as an actress in Phantom. Katrina is effortlessly enigmatic as Nawaz who works on special assignments for Indian intelligence. Katrina lends a crackling and corrosively sharp edge to to the central character of a tough-as-nails woman when dragged into mug's game. Mohammed Zeeshan Ayyub is one fine actor who is proving his versatility as an actor with every subsequent film of his. After his quirky portrayal in TWMR, slapstick Cheema in last week's release 'All Is Well', Zeeshan is back with an impeccable performance in Phantom. He is one of those rare versatile actors who gets deep unto the skin of his character and comes with an effective performance as per the role assigned to him. It is real treat watching him perform as Samit Mishra in this movie. Sabyasachi Chakrabarty has given an earnest performance as RAW chief and portrayed his character with utmost conviction.
TECHNICAL FINESSE :: The musical soundtrack of the movie that has been composed by Pritam Chakraborty is average with one of the tracks 'Afghan Jalebi' standing out amongst others. Julius Packiam's background score is the heartbeat of Phantom as it instills the necessary emotions at the opportune moments in the course of narrative. The cinematographer of the movie is Aseem Mishra who has done an outstanding job as Phantom is definitely one of the best shot and visually appealing films in recent times. The movie has been shot across Beirut, Gulmarg, Lambeth and Vancouver, hence providing him a bigger canvas to showcase his skills and Oh Boy! Aseem has grabbed the opportunity with both his hands and delivered enchanting vistas. His lens has captured every location beautifully and Aseem has captured every sequence with such grandeur, scale that it enlightens the experience of watching a high adrenaline film. Some of the aerial shots captured by him are a treat to watch. Aseem has ably captured lot of scenes on live locations like bursting streets to keep the authenticity of the script intact. A special mention of Rajat Poddar & Sukant Panigrahy for their effective contribution as Production Designers. I would also like to applaud the work of Sham Kaushal (Action Director) of Phantom for he has orchestrated not only the best of raw action but some high octane stunts in the movie. Suffice to say, Sham's well choreographed action and chase sequences are one of the major highlights of Phantom. Sham has truly delivered the goods when it comes to action sequences. The editor of the movie is Aarif Sheikh who has kept the run-time of movie to 147 minutes. His editing is racy, taut and never provides for a dull moment throughout the movie. As a director, Kabir Khan has made an edge-of-the seat film that is at par with any mega budget Hollywood thriller you've seen. He's displayed his mastery over the craft via his earlier flicks like Ek Tha Tiger, Bajrangi Bhaijaan but with Phantom, he pushes the envelope further. There are certain limitations in the story but Kabir keeps the screenplay so tight that there's not a single dreary moment. Kabir has added scale to the movie wherever required and that adds magnitude to the movie. The best part about Kabir Khan's directorial skills is that he gets straight to the point right from the word go and manages to entertain the audience without adding any extra frivolous elements in Phantom.
CONCLUSION :: Phantom is puissant thriller cladded with some real high octane action coupled with exceptional cinematography. It's a movie which stays true to its genre and subject making it a good one time plausible watch making you think ' A story you wish were true '.
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