Phantom Review: Kabir Khan’s Movie beyond 26/11

Phantom is a succinct fast-paced thrilled that keeps you gripped throughout. Must watch, despite the jingoistic flavour!

Starring Saif Ali Khan and Katrina Kaif, I expected Phantom to be like any other disappointing Bollywood thriller — but I was happily surprised! Phantom is a brilliantly executed film — fast-paced, thrilling, emotional, action-packed, and yes, jingoistic. Let’s get into a deeper analysis of the movie in this review:

Phantom: The Plot (*Limited spoilers*)

I thought the movie was about 26/11, the attacks in Mumbai. But to my surprise, the film is about the repercussions of 26/11, or rather the lack of repercussions faced by any the LeT members who orchestrated the carnage. It’s about India’s bumbling inability to do anything to protect or redeem (or avenge) herself. There was one poignant line where a R&AW official says when America gets attacked, they send drones and armies to find the perpetrators. When India gets attacked, we cancel cricket matches. The entire audience laughed and cheered at that statement, recognising a harsh truth.

Phantom: Fact or Fiction

While the story is fictional, the depiction of scenarios, sets, and even some people (David Coleman Headley, Hafiz Saaed) is very, very real. Honestly, this is one of the best researched Bollywood thrillers I’ve come across  (probably because the screenplay is based on investigative/crime journalist/author Hussain Zaidi’s Mumbai Avengers). Not only that, the sets are remarkable. From Syria to London to Lahore, everything feels very real.

Performances of Saif Ali Khan & Katrina Kaif

Phantom starring Saif Ali Khan & Katrina Kaif

Phantom starring Saif Ali Khan & Katrina Kaif

Overall, I found both Saif Ali Khan’s and Katrina Kaif’s performances quite believable. The acting was decent (aside from a few moments here and there), and they felt quite natural in their roles. It was a good casting choice and a good movie choice for both. The R&AW officer deputed from NTRO was an excellent choice to provide comic relief but also to put some fuel into the fire. 

Editing & Direction

Hat’s off, Kabir Khan! You’ve redeemed yourself in my eyes. I did not enjoy Salman Khan’s Ek tha Tiger at all (where Salman Khan’s personality overshadows the movie), and so I was skeptical about another R&AW film. But, wow, this film was superb. The suspense throughout kept me glued to the screen. The teasing, stretching out the tense moments of the film were superb. Moreover, there was a deep sense of empathy and poignancy to some moments (example: the nurse Ameena’s end, Saif in the water, the salute on the submarine) — you did not let your lead stars dictate the movie, and that is what makes this film special.

Moreover, the film is crisp, a little over 2 hours. It doesn’t have stupid scenes where Saif serenades Katrina (there were almost a couple moments, but luckily they passed quickly). The thrilling suspense exists throughout the movie with the fast-paced action-packed scenes integrating seamlessly with the 

The Trouble with Jingoism & Hatred

Saif Ali Khan as Phantom

Saif Ali Khan as Phantom

I came out of the movie theatre very trouble. Why? Because I wanted the bad guys dead. Because I almost got tears in my eyes for the sacrifices of our soldiers. Because the movie made me strangely nationalistic.

This movie is the equivalent of an American jingoistic film like Harrison Ford’s Air Force One. We are the good guys, and the ‘other’ is evil and it is that black and white.  In Air Force One, the evil guys were the Soviets. In later American movies/tv shows, they’ve become the ‘Moslems’ – Afghan’s, Iraqis, Pakistanis (for example, Homeland). 

 In our case, the evil guys are Pakistanis (more specifically the LeT). And this film makes me hate and makes me want revenge. And that’s the dangerous soft power of theatre.

An eye for an eye leaves the whole world blind.

And once we are all blind, who will sit and watch these movies?

Phantom Movie Trailer

You can watch Phanton Hindi Movie trailer below.

Phantom released on August 29 in India. It can be seen in movie theatres near you.

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