Parveez Shaikh

Kabir Khan
Writer - Director

S Hussain Zaidi

Film Review
Phantom:The Film that Walks


The Ghost (Film) Who Walks cool

Phantom is another addition to Bollywood list of films like Agent Vinod, Ek Tha Tiger, Bang Bang, Baby, etc. where we are trying to BOND with the West. International Mission, Spies, Rivals and Challenges with clock ticking from minute one.

Given this, the set-up becomes trite. A similar kind of mission, a man at the centre mostly an Army Officer with similar challenges and also stereotypical villains – Muslim Fundamentalists. No novelty of the subject and creativity remains within confinement. Though the Mission is different but you still are watching the same kind of show on the similar backdrop. That’s why I said Ghost Film. devil 

Now within that how taut is the plot, how you connect with the characters, how thrilling is the cinematographic experience, is what things are left to.

Phantom is much better than its predecessors when it comes to Plotting though Agent Vinod was a well-balanced Screenplay. The best part of Phantom is the way things unfold maintaining the intrigue. Right from the first sequence of car chase to the last assassination, things open in front of you in a pretty engaging way. You look forward anxiously to what’s happening next. Kudos to director and writers. Barring a couple of places, we are mostly served with surprises as far as the plot unfolding goes. Plans, failures of plans, alternate plans and failure of alternate plans, no alternate plans are something one might enjoy watching in Phantom. This is the strength of the Film. Big enough a reason to watch it. The very idea of thriller experience is to feel as we watch. yes

Now coming to the weakness in the Writing. Why in spite of a high adrenaline rush, the Writing doesn’t leave an impact? The culprit is Characterization. Right from the Protagonist, Daniyal Khan to the RAW and ISI Characters, none has the required depth that connects you with them. A run down here for academic interest.

  1. Daniyal was Court Martialed because he left his bunker just before it blew up. He was charged for chickening out from his post leaving his unit to die. Now, when we make films on Army officers, we do need to look into the protocols the Institution follows. Officer leaving his post is not only hackneyed backstory – but it’s also far from convincing. An officer is given a fair chance to present his defence. His previous achievements are also considered before demeaning him. As if this wasn’t enough Daniyal’s father also doesn’t speak to him assuming him a deserter! Then, he is invited to be part of the mission with an assurance of restoring his honour. Too many clichés. On top of this, we don’t see the human aspect of the character to help us empathize with him. We just see him like an established Bond, without any quirks. So we watch the film just as an outsider. sad
  2. Katrina’s Character of Nawaz Mistry is also flat. At one point, she narrates her backstory as how her father used to take her to Taj Hotel for tea and pastries when she was a child. She felt indignant when Taj was attacked on 26/11. She losing her dear & near one in the attack could have been a cliché, but this tea thing also doesn’t go too well to an extent that one would plan to avenge because her favourite hangout was attacked. It’s either the backstory’s depth or Katrina’s performance that I wasn’t convinced with Nawaz’s motivation. Next why she’s working with ‘Medicos Without Borders?’ Why did she leave RAW? All these questions are an addition to Katappa Bahubali Series. wink
  3. Mohd. Zeeshan Ayub is trying very hard here. Considering he is a new entrant in the RAW office, the way he goes around and speaks is all OTT. ‘Newcomers getting so much audience and an opportunity’, is really fiction. We wish this Story were really true smiley
  4. The other RAW and ISI Characters appear cut to convenient meter. They overreact or underreact depending upon what suits the screenplay at that point. In one scene, the ISI Boss is seen demanding print-outs aka Hardcopies? Funny. Funnier when the next time he demands the prints his colleague tells him half is still pending surprise. Which Intelligence is this that uses hardcopies and which Printer takes so long? OK, you wanted some breathing space but such silly devices bring down big time films like R.ONE
    Coming to overreaction, even when an injection is replaced everybody down the line takes it as fatal conspiracy and switch to war-footing gears. While as an audience you haven’t sensed that huge an urgency. ISI Boss stops the whole activities even if he gets the scent of Phantom’s presence in an area, appeared to much an overreaction. frown

Though accounted as Character over-reactions the above points also appear as flaws in Screenplay minor or major depending upon one’s engagement.

There are other flaws purely as Screenplay like Danyal’s Parents don’t have his latest picture. Forget a few years back what she has is a childhood photo. In comedy this may amuse but here we needed something cut-throat.

And some major flaws - Daniyal is doing all this and much more to enter into Pakistan. At one point Nawaz tells him she can take ‘them’ to Pakistan. This whole sequence is too much porous. Why didn't she tell him before? Why couldn’t he go on tourist or some other visa because all that he does there would have been possible with a tourist visa as well? Forget even visa, if he had dozens of passports why couldn’t he make a Pakistani passport and just enter, instead of surrendering himself to Lashkar in Syria, risking his life? surprise

The film starts very well, takes you for a spin though the gas stove plot is a clichéd novel plot, Headley killing comes as a kick-ass sequence keeping the energies high. But then in the second half the Ghost Film starts to Walk instead of fly and Walks on the clichéd ‘tracks’, pun intended.cheeky

Had it come before the deluge of such Spy films, maybe Phantom would have done great, but still it’s a good one time watch worth the price of a ticket.






   Sanjay Sharma

Critic who loves to appreciate. www.ftiiscreenwriters.com

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