What happens when a soldier is assigned to kill his former super-soldier, super-spy mentor? You get roughly 154 minutes of mildly impressive action sequences heavily inspired by the Mission Impossible franchise, combined with a wafer-thin plot that becomes increasingly bizarre as the film heads towards a conclusion that you suspect everyone saw coming.
Also, critics of Bollywood films like this may claim that "inspiration" is really thinly veiled plagiarism. If you find yourself in a cinema watching the headache-inducing mockery of spy thrillers that is War, here's a game you can play to help pass the time (and you'll need all the help you can get): take a swig of cola every time you are reminded of a James Bond, Mission Impossible or John Woo film. You will rarely have a chance to put your drink down.
War is the story of two Indian soldiers / intelligence operatives within an unspecified but exceptionally well-funded branch of India's intelligence network.
Kabir Luthra (Hrithik Roshan), who was once the most celebrated, brave and patriotic officer India had to offer, has spent the past six months assassinating top-ranking members of the country's defence forces. Khalid Khan (Tiger Shroff), who was trained by Luthra and who worshipped at the feet of his mentor, is leading the task force to capture or kill Luthra. There's also a rather forced backstory about Luthra killing Khan's father after he was discovered to be a traitor.
The first half of the film is dedicated to Luthra and Khan's bromance, as they chase India's enemies halfway across the world. The second half is spent in the pursuit of understanding what made the country's most loyal officer turn against it and Khan's desperate attempts to stop his mentor from murdering his next target. Along the way, director Siddharth Anand uses every cliche imaginable within the spy thriller genre to pad out a thoroughly unoriginal storyline – a good cop gone rogue is hardly a shocking premise.
To be fair to the filmmaker, the nature of action thrillers such as this requires the audience to willingly suspend their disbelief in the interest of enjoying the thrills and chills being shown on screen. Even so, it is the responsibility of the screenwriter to balance logic and plausibility with healthy tension.
But War fails spectacularly – and consistently – to do this. Suddenly, out of nowhere, Luthra and Khan are shown in a dance-off while celebrating the Hindu festival of Holi, with a posse of women pirouetting around them, no less. You have to imagine that the powers-that-be decided they had to get the biggest bang for their buck, and when you have two of the best dancers in the industry headlining your film, you must make them dance, even if means further loosening the characters' already tenuous grasp on authenticity.
Other bizarre moments include international criminal masterminds nonchalantly discussing, in excruciating detail, their plans to destroy India with completely random people, for the benefit of the surveilling officer, no doubt. It is remarkable how little care War's lead antagonist takes to protect the identities of his moles. To make things even more convenient, every single one of these international criminals is fluent in Hindi and refuses to converse in any other language. Why waste precious screen time in actual intelligence-gathering, when you can hand the hero everything he needs to do his job on a silver platter?
Both Roshan and Shroff deliver earnest performances, but War offers them little room to show off their acting skills. Most of their time is spent flexing their impressive muscles for the camera. Ashutosh Rana is also wasted as their boss, Colonel Luthra. He occasionally shows up to grind his teeth and bark orders, but is otherwise redundant. And that is also true of Vaani Kapoor's small role as a civilian asset in an operation that boggles the mind and defies reason.
War offers its viewers nothing new or even interesting. It's perplexing that in 2019, a production house was willing to spend 2 billion rupees (Dh103 million) to make a film that amounts to little more than an extended action sequence. War's screenplay is among the worst to have come out of Bollywood in recent months, severely handicapping its relatively talented star cast. Ben Jasper's camerawork is frantic and jerky, ostensibly in an attempt to create tension on screen, an effect that ends up making the action seem even more gimmicky and unsupervised. It's a movie meant to be enjoyed only by Roshan and Shroff's most ardent admirers. For everyone else, it's a colossal waste of time.