Edge of Tomorrow

Genre: Sci-fi

Cast: Tom Cruise, Emily Blunt, Bill Paxton

What happens when your favourite star becomes the boy on the run in Temple Run or Subway surfer? Will you let him devoured by the beast? Or will you give him another chance — for death is never the end in a video game. It is just an opportunity to restart and face the obstacle all over again.

Director Doug Liman and his team of writers play with this emotion as they put Tom Cruise in a video game kind of situation in an apocalyptic future. They draw the best thing about the video game and use it to correct the biggest flaw with the action genre, wherein the hero is always invincible. Here we have a hero who dies not just once but many times over. It starts as a never ending loop which gets addictive, like a new version of a game. Every time Cruise as Major William Cage — a PR official in the military forced to get into battle fatigues — learns a new step, you feel elated. Every time he dies you feel a twinge. Liman imbues this loopy situation with goofy humour, again an interesting twist to the genre, which tends to take itself too seriously. In the process he highlights how fragile we are in nature’s scheme of things.

Facing an alien enemy who knows the future, Cage dies within a few minutes but by a quirk of fate gets the enemy’s power to reset the day. However, he doesn’t know how to play the different levels of this game. So he has no choice but to die, reboot and repeat. Between this circle of life and death he gets to meet Rita Vrataski (Emily Blunt), who has been through this cycle before losing her potency to reset the day.

As she trains Cage and the two take on the bizarre creatures we get some poignant moments amidst the action. A smart combination of technique and tangibles, after a long time one has come across a film that employs 3D to great effect.

Cruise manages to break the image in portraying the transformation of a coward to a braveheart and gets solid support from Blunt along the way. However, when the narrative comes out of the loop, the film loses its zing. After being on the edge for more than half of its running time, it ultimately falls into safe territory. Still, good fun on the run!

Bottomline: Not just a potent dose for sci-fi junkies, it could well prove to be the game changer this summer.

Holiday

Genre: Action/ Drama

Cast: Akshay Kumar, Sonakshi Sinha, Sumeet Raghavan, Govinda, Farhad

The promos looked dated, the theme of sleeper cells sounded contrived, Akshay Kumar’s current form didn’t give hope and the 170-odd minute duration filled one with fear — but I survived Holiday to state that it kept me emotionally busy.

An action entertainer about people in uniform, it is an honest remake of Tamil superhit Thupakki and finally announces the arrival of vacation mood in theatres after a month-long dose of serious and silly movies. Director A.R. Murugadoss has a knack for serving dosa with paneer stuffing for an audience that craves smartly seasoned masala fare. He did it with Ghajini and here again he manages to translate a potent script without any generation loss.

An Army secret agent, Virat (Akshay) comes home on a holiday to find a suitable match. He finds two. One in the form of Sahiba (Sonakshi), a demure looking girl who turns out to be dynamite, and a nameless terrorist (newcomer Farhad), who is out to bomb Mumbai through sleeper cells. Virat is awake to the challenge as Murugadoss lays a minefield of mind games that lure you into suspending disbelief when Akshay becomes the one-man army. The threat that anybody can be a terrorist feels believable, and the juxtaposition of patriotism with love and family makes you care for the protagonist.

Though there is not much to read between the lines in this genre, the acceptance of the home grown terror network where the mastermind is not a cleric but a hunk comes as a reality check. There is an attempt at balance by introducing references to corrupt and honest faces from different sections of the society to ensure that terror doesn’t get associated with one religion, and it doesn’t sound forced. Similarly, the use of officers rendered disabled on duty stop short of becoming syrupy.

Murugadoss has a way with violence but he also understands that action emanates from the bedrock of emotion. Even if it means employing a dog! Here the emotional pull is not as cloying as in Ghajini but the humorous interludes between Akshay and Sonakshi and more importantly between Akshay and Sumeet Raghvan (as Virat’s friend) keep giving the psychosomatic kicks when the physical ones begin to lose their potency. And except for Govinda’s cameo, these interludes don’t appear as patchwork on the overall design of the film.

Sonakshi repeats herself but does the needful. It seems she has been promised a fixed number of songs as Murugadoss fits in all of them at the cost of cutting pace. After a series of films with bawdy humour, Akshay returns to his strong man with a big heart image, who doesn’t mind making fun of himself. Though age has begun to show, there is still nobody to match his natural flair for kicking up a storm.

He seldom takes a beating from the villain in his films. But here the Khiladi goes against his type and it works in generating moments of tension. In a strange coincidence this week we have our desi Tom Cruise taking on the original. In fact the way Akshay fixes his broken bone in the climax is quite similar to the way Tom retrofits his armour in Edge of Tomorrow. It’s time to cruise into action mode!

Bottomline: A kickstart to the Holiday season!

Filmistaan

Genre: Drama

Cast: Sharib Hashmi, Inamulhaq, Kumud Mishra

Debutant Nitin Kakkar takes us to a no-man’s land between India and Pakistan where Bollywood rules and politics has no role to play. Sunny (newcomer Sharib Hashmi) is a Bollywood addict aspiring to become an actor. A quirk of fate ensures that he strays into Pakistan in the captivity of militants. Here he finds a mate in Aftab (Inamulhaq) who makes a living by selling pirated CDs of Bollywood films in Pakistan. It results in a series of situations that look comic on the surface but carry the pathos of brothers divided by their political masters. The turmoil in the conscience of the head of the militant group (Kumud Mishra) when Sunny impresses the local populace is effectively captured. And the scene where Pakistani radio is playing Reshma’s “Ve Main Chori Chori” and Sunny unintentionally responds with Lata Mangeshkar’s “Yara Silli Silli” sums up the situation.

The performances are effervescent and Nitin steers clear of melodrama. Such is our engagement with Aftab and Sunny that we forget that there is no female face in the film. But as is usually the case with such films, Nitin falters in the final act as he looks for a realistic closure to his camaraderie. He keeps it open-ended but the way it pans out it seems the director is trying to suggest that the fault lies only with Pakistan. For a film that celebrates amity between citizens, one expected Nitin to see the bigger picture.

Bottomline: Coming at a time when relations between the two countries are on an upswing, Filmistaan can be a small confidence building measure.