Action always works best when it is backed by emotion. Who knows it better than John Abraham who Force-d his way into the genre in 2011 with the Nishikant Kamat film? With Action, he aims for level 2... and doesn’t disappoint.
In action films, the emotion is usually revenge, and in debutant director Lakshya Raj Anand’s film, it’s very much the fulcrum. But there is more. For a film whose title explains its intentions in one word, it is not as brutish as the title suggests. Attack plays out like a smart video game designed for teenagers of all age groups where the soldier — sorry — super soldier hasn’t lost his heart yet in the web of artificial intelligence.
Propelled by the nationalist narrative, the premise doesn’t even test the average intelligence. A terror group with Muslim names has mounted an attack on India. The target is our Parliament. The good thing is Anand doesn’t load us with explainers and hits the ground running. He remains focused on the task at hand in this hostage drama. As the romantic angle is intertwined with action, he doesn’t digress into love songs, and there’s not even an item number to catch the breath.
Arjun (John), an Army major, who has been almost reduced to a vegetable in a terror attack, is asked by his mentor Subramanium (Prakash Raj) to undergo a risky experiment that would transform him into a one-man army and provide him an opportunity to save his country and avenge the death of his beloved (Jacqueline Fernandez). Unlike the cyborgs that Hollywood factories unleash on us, Arjun retains some human emotions beneath a chiseled body.
When he grapples to live with his artificial robotic assistant IRA, the film gets some refreshing light moments. When he struggles with his inner demons, we sense what it could have been. This solider carries a chip in his cerebellum, not on his shoulder. The potential has not been fully realised, and leaves a lot of scope for a sequel.
Taut and fast-paced, the action choreography is closer to the stuff that Hollywood offers and the electric background score provides reason for the adrenaline glands to make their presence felt. The best part is whenever Lakshya takes a leap of faith, it doesn’t look fake, particularly, when the action shifts to the Parliament House. The cinematography is fluid as the camera judiciously moves from tight close-ups to the long shots. Drone cameras have become a fad these days, but cinematographers Will Humpris, P.S. Vinod and Soumik Mukherjee don’t go for the overkill.
The politics of the war room is at times problematic, sometimes even juvenile, but good fun in the context of the film. When Prakash Raj says yesterday’s fiction is today’s fact, we know what it means.
The writers (John is one of them) have loaded Arjun with so much trauma that John doesn’t need to express much. We are just expected to get it! When John, who has also co-produced the film, is with Jacqueline in the frame, we know who has the greater possibility to have an acting muscle. And the moment action becomes a one-dimensional word, John is our man. He is credible as the last man standing.
Prakash Raj is solid as ever. Rakul Preet Singh as the scientist is saddled with an under-written part, as is veteran Kiran Kumar. As the crude North Indian politician, Rajat Kapoor attempts to play against the type, but falters. It is Elham Ehsas as the counter force Hamid Gul, who is also fighting a personal battle in the guise of faith, that provides meat to the action. The London-based actor has played variants of Gul in international productions. Here, he is believable as the face of terror who perhaps carries a pusillanimous heart.
Overall, if the audience can suspend their disbelief after the pandemic for two hours, Action is a nationalist substitute for PubG, plus a heart that hasn’t stopped beating, yet.
Attack is currently playing in theatres.