A little jingoism never hurt anyone. This film packs a lot.
The 26/11 terrorist attacks in Mumbai, seven years ago, left most Indians shocked and outraged. The masses bayed for blood, but never got to taste it, as a pragmatic government kept its head down. This film, set in 2015, explores the scenario in which a few government officers take the route of vigilante justice, US-style. Phantom appeals to the primal human desire for revenge, and leaves you feeling gratified, at least till you read the supers at the end.
This quest for justice is set off by the interception of a Pakistani terrorist by Indian forces. Under interrogation, he reveals that he had been sent to execute an attack on India in the near future. One attack has been prevented, but as a dewy-eyed new recruit (Mohammed Zeeshan Ayyub) at NSA reminds the RAW head, many others may happen. If they want to make a difference and genuinely dent LeT’s plans, they have to take out the masterminds, the ones who planned the 26/11 attack. While all present agree, they know the government will never sanction such a mission. So they go rogue. As no ordinary and sensible officer would take up a rogue mission, court-martialed, hard-to-trace officer Daniyal Khan (Saif Ali Khan) is approached with the plan. Thus begin the chain of events that will give every Indian viewer, no matter how indifferently patriotic, great satisfaction to witness.
The low-octane chase scene with which the film begins, introduces the sanki Daniyal and, sets the tone for the film. The means of elimination of each terrorist are novel and clearly inspired by real events. There are no surprises or gaping flaws in the script, which follows a linear narrative, but maintains a pulsing pace. There are obstacles in Daniyal’s path but his goal never seems impossible to achieve. Kabir Khan and Parveez Shaikh have not written dialogues that deliver punches, but the film feels closer to reality for that. The background score is apt and sets the mood unobtrusively, though it’s not as haunting as that of New York (also a Kabir Khan film).
Characterization is the only really weak point in the film. The characters of Daniyal Khan and Nawaz Mistry (Katrina Kaif) lack depth and relatability. This wouldn’t have mattered if the two actors had given intense performances but that is not the case. Daniyal Khan never becomes a hero, even when the audience is applauding his actions and cheering him on. The real hero of this film, in the end, is India. The young, hopeful India that believes justice is possible, and knows that there’s a price for it.
Why You Should Watch This Movie:
Phantom offers action and revenge but not of the mindless variety. The violence is always far enough that you can turn a blind eye to it. Pakistani civilians are shown to be innocent and humane (some great performances here), even if the establishment is not. This is a film that entertains, engages and offers “insaaf”, without ever becoming too serious or too sentimental.