Phantom: More Bhagat, less Zaidi.

Phantom sputters one too many a time.
Phantom sputters one too many a time.

From a personal perspective, I love picking up literature that deals with the unraveling a devastating terror plot. As far as non-fiction goes, that more or less covers what I read. Be it Zaidi’s hard hitting Black Friday or even the extremely harrowing experience that is The Siege by Adrian Levy and Cathy Scott-Clark, books on and about terror have always fascinated me. So when I heard that Zaidi’s Mumbai Avengers was being turned into a film starring Saif Ali Khan and Katrina Kaif as R.A.W agents, I was skeptical. More so, when the trailer dropped as it looked extremely sloppy.

But now that I’ve seen it, I can tell you that it was in fact, sloppy.

Phantom revolves around two agents out to destroy the architects of the horrific 26/11 assault on Mumbai in order to bring justice to the hundreds of innocents who lost their lives for no fault of their own. Saif Ali Khan stars as Daniyal Khan, a  shamed ex Army officer who’s looking for his one shot at redemption. Accompanying him is Nawaz Mistry(Katrina Kaif), armed with a palate of expressions that would make a block of wood question it’s usefulness.

For all intents and purposes, Phantom is not a bad film. It’s not a great one either. Rewind back to February this year and we have a better, tighter film in Akshay Kumar’s Baby. Phantom is a great concept, shoddily put together and passed off as a marketable product thanks to the popularity of the two leads and a wound that still remains fresh in the minds of the country’s citizens. The first half is chaotic due to the non-linear approach that it adopts and the fact that it’s not the best cut film either does nothing to help it’s cause. Post intermission, it becomes a better film, going what one would call “The Full ‘Murrica!” not to a degree that would have you jumping and screaming at the screen a la Lagaan. 

Where Baby succeeded, Phantom fails quite badly. Baby had you caring about a set of characters without unnecessary melodrama setting in. It was extremely cut and dry with the characters being completely no-nonsense.  That isn’t the case here. A film like this does not need require forced sentimentality. Personal vendettas dilute the film and when you’ve got a lead pair that just can’t pull off the characters they’re portraying, the less said the better. I love Saif, but here it just doesn’t pan out. Katrina has somehow managed to regress, she is  spectacularly horrid in this. “Laughably bad” is a term I don’t throw around casually, but it aptly describes her in this film. A special nod must be given to a climax that many will see as an unintentionally hilarious nod to an Oscar winning film of the late 90’s, as it makes you quite literally point and laugh at the lead pair instead of connecting with them on any sort of emotional scale.

The premise of Phantom is an extremely delicious thought. The dish however is half baked, with an overdose of salt. That’s not to say that there’s no pleasure to be found in tiny morsels. One just wishes that the cake tasted as good as it was made out to be.

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