Had it been an intentional action romp in the league of a James Bond film, Phantom could have worked. Given the scale and the canvas of its plot – the writers throw in everything they have, from Syria to submarines – it could even have been entertaining.
Instead, they make needless attempts at providing credibility to the narrative with spur-of-the-moment ideas that seem acts of a brain freeze rather than logical recourses. You have to watch how one plot point does a 180-degree reversal within 5 minutes, and yet the story happily moves on uninterrupted, mindless of what just happened.
The “logical” flaws stand out because the action does not. There is neither ambition nor ingenuity in the sequences that unfold, barring a mad car chase that kicks off the film. The battle sequence in Syria and the final confrontation in Pakistan are the two set pieces of the film. They leave you underwhelmed; you miss an over-the-top chase or a city-charring blast, a sheer trail of destruction if you will.
And that’s what Phantom suffers from most, a lack of identity. If it was a genuine political thriller, the story and screenplay are childishly basic at best, lacking nuance and grip – it fails to evoke a sense of anticipation and drama. If it was an out and out entertainment, it misses the knockout punch completely – it seems the shadow of the real deal, too scared to go all out.
While one shouldn’t take it too seriously, it comes perilously close to being a jingoistic response to the 26/11 attacks in Mumbai, especially through Zeeshan Ayub’s obsessive, twitchy character. His only motivation for stitching together a revenge attack against Lashkar-e-Taiba is because “that’s what they would have done.” Given that this idea is the backbone of whatever ideology the film aspires, it should have been more balanced. It is not, and the film loses credibility because of it.
You don’t have to be an extremist to enjoy perpetrators brought to justice. Seeing Dean Headley, a self-confessed part of the terror attacks on Mumbai being cleverly assassinated can make for visceral cinema at its best. But Phantom is nowhere near the task, and chooses to frame the action from the lens of shallow patriotism instead, ending up as what can only be desribed as a middling film at best.
The film ends with a majestic scene – an Indian submarine emerging from the deep waters of the Arabian Sea. This drama is too little, too late. Phantom remains a ghost of what could have been, and nothing more.
Hindi, Drama, Action, Color