A still from the movie Phantom Image Credit: Supplied

After debacles such as Humshakals and Happy Ending last year, it’s possible Saif Ali Khan will now have a box-office hit with Thursday’s release, Phantom.

Kabir Khan, who is riding high on the success of Bajrangi Bhaijaan, comes up with another India-Pakistan story. Phantom was banned in Pakistan earlier this month. As far as the film — loosely based on the book Mumbai Avengers by Hussain Zaidi — is concerned, it has tried to balance the point of view of both countries concerning the Mumbai attacks in 2008. However, this being fiction based on facts, there has to be a winner in the battle at the end.

Phantom refers to a Rambo-style operation conceived by the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW), the primary foreign intelligence agency in India, which is struggling to bring the perpetrators of the Mumbai attacks to justice but without being blamed for it. For this reason Daniyal Shaikh (Khan), a reclusive dishonoured Indian army man is recruited.

Abandoned by his parents, and not just by friends and the army, Shaikh wants to simply stop existing. But when the opportunity to “redeem” himself comes along in the form of Phantom, he accepts it. What follows is intriguing political plotting from both sides of the border that concludes with a thrilling end.

Aarif Shaikh and Aditya Banerjee’s tight editing of Zaidi’s script keeps the film fast paced. Even though it slows slightly after the interval, it picks up pace in the last quarter of the film.

Yes, some may argue that due to its extensive international shoot, the film was “just a holiday for the cast and crew”, but the events depicted in the film force that. Terrorists wouldn’t all be in the same place at the same time.

Khan works well as the spy-assassin. Yes, he maintains a poker face but, as Katrina Kaif’s character Nawaz Mistry in the film says, “information in this business comes at a price”.

There are moments when you can see the worry on his face over whether his mission will succeed and whether he can redeem himself.

Kaif suits her part as a wing woman helping Shaikh in his mission, even though at times she’s just the pretty face with a fashionably dishevelled look. But if Bryce Dallas Howard running from dinosaurs in high heels in the grass didn’t stop Jurassic World from being one of the biggest films of the year, I guess we can allow our Kaif to dodge bullets with her gorgeous hair flying all over the place.

Even though the protagonists fall in love, the good thing about the film is that it avoids degenerating into a romance with unnecessary displays of love and meaningless songs — though Arijit Singh’s Saware at the end of the film is a good listen. Even the one wedding song was made an essential part of the mission. The action and thrills stay right through to the end.


Out now

Film: Phantom

Cast: Saif Ali Khan, Katrina Kaif, Mohammad Zeeshan Ayyub

Stars: 3.5 out of 5