It is rare to find an example of a Hindi action-thriller based around an intelligence body well done, which doesn’t rely on an invisible list of very specifically Indian nationalist cliches. Siddharth Anand’s War is that rarity. It is a story of a senior army officer Kabir (Hrithik Roshan) — the teacher — gone rogue as the defence now allocates another army officer Khalid (Tiger Shroff) — the student — to find and kill him. A chase begins and we — the audience — are never sure of the direction. But War’s style and swagger ask questions of its intent, one which justifies the choices of its creators.
The answer lies in the name. For instance, a Holiday: A Soldier is Never Off Duty is as divinely true to its all anti-terrorist and government intelligence body theme as is our subject of interest, but its soul lies in making the protagonist appeal to the audience with the ever-demanding yet underrated nature of his job. Or even an Aiyaary, where the themes still roam around the army versus the intruders, but in this case the soul lies with the concept of deceiving, hence the name Aiyaary, meaning imposter. So when a movie named War releases with two heroic male characters shown to face off with ripped jeans and leather jackets/ tank tops at the helm of it all, you know the conscience of the film lies in a two-way battle with glorified physicalities and ignored writing continuity subtleties.
So where does a viewer draw the line? He doesn’t. You just know when the conscience has tipped over. War’s universe, at numerous points, defies civics and physics. But having settled into the nature of this tipsy ride between illusionary character morals, bike chase sequences in a European city or car battles in the Arctic — so well done — look more iconic than fraudulent. Or even the never-tiring yet excessively intensive fight sequences where there are practically no boundaries to the extent till where a human body can be beaten, knifed and shot up to. The victory here is that the cause doesn’t even matter anymore.
While these are all points that help War’s conscience not tip the line, there are certainly many that test the patience of the decider. For instance, an incredibly out of place Holi dance number in a safe house on the border. Not just its presence, or the club-lights it comes with, our two heroes now suddenly are happy to be around. They have kept aside a moral high-ground for the precious festival and it can’t possibly not look more irrelevant than it did at that specific time and place. Even in an all-out superstar extravaganza, glamour has to be timed.
While slow motions and numerous close calls keep you in sequences, its solid writing keeps you in the movie. War has more twists than you expect it to have, and that is its most significant twist. Certainly, the greatest trick that War ever pulled was convincing us that its intelligence could be judged. The running battle between Kabir and Khalid never really lets you choose sides, and whenever you do, it is timed. Its quick turns and a non-linear narrative justify its one-hundred-and-forty-six-minutes runtime.
Hrithik Roshan uses his reputation and built to perfection, while Tiger Shroff might just have made a case to be considered in the industry’s ‘elite’. Both complement each other, and imagining otherwise could have been a disaster for Anand. The second half completely supersedes the first and that might just be the case of adapting to an environment — something very subjective of course. A Bollywood fan who couldn’t blink in that climax battle scene between Ram and Raghavan in Farah Khan’s Main Hoon Na might just have had an entire movie made for him.