2.75 STARS / 5 (Dying to be ‘Good’, Almost There)

Director : Lakshya Raj Anand

Cast : John Abraham, Jacqueline Fernandes, Prakash Raj, Rakul Preet Singh,

Rajit Kapur, Elham Ehsas             

Hindi (English subtitles available)

NZ Release 2/4/22

Military chief V. K Subramaniam (Prakash Raj) kick-starts ‘Attack’s modern Indian premise with a sly, bold dig at those who might not take this story seriously. He says that when countries like USA propose tech-forward bionic human soldiers, we quickly accept it, but when India does the same, it is ridiculed. India, continues Subramaniam, now has smart cutting-edge scientists who have the know-how to present the next generation of top soldiers, powered by a chip implanted in the soldiers’ brains that gives them unique technological and fighting prowess. He fires a missile on behalf of cinema too – check out his insight about the first use of drones.

Arjun (John Abraham) is an Indian Army soldier and Ayesha (Jacqueline Fernandes in an effective turn) is a flight attendant. Both are past their physical prime, but romance, as you know, blooms eternal. They hook up ultra-fast and before you can say ‘I Love you’, Arjun fishes out the wedding ring, because we have to get on with the rest of the action picture. However, that dreaded thing called ‘Life’ happens, and Arjun is left with the remains of the day.

Enter military chief V. K Subramaniam (a superbly focused Prakash Raj) who proposes a radical new bionic technology that will make Arjun resurrect and have a much better go at the terrorists headed by Hamid Gul (Elham Ehsas) who mount an attack on the Parliament. Guided by top scientist Dr.Sabaha Qureshi (Rakul Preet Singh), Arjun now has not only incredible physical power, but also the tech-specs to snoop on all of India. Meanwhile, power politics boil over in the situation room, with the Army generals making a great point about zero negotiation with terrorists, the proceedings partly presided over by the utterly useless yet fecklessly devious Home Minister Digvijay (a slyly excellent Rajit Kapur). 

One suspects Prakash Raj was recruited not just because he is a good actor, but also as a doff of hat to Tamil and Telugu films which, with Enthiran (2010) and Bahubali 1 & 2 (2015-’17), spearheaded India’s leap on to the ambitious special effects platform. ‘Attack’ is part of Hindi cinema’s belated entry to the futuristic envelope-pushing party. 

The movie’s best cutting-edge sequence is not any action scene, but a robotic surgery sequence shown with shining clarity and style, complete with Sanskrit chants to showcase the native touch. Another memorable scene transpires when Arjun is compelled to intervene in the case of a lady tortured by a terrorist – the triumph here is not the passable fight design but the mounting tension and a trick in narrative placement. The best action sequence is at the end, involving a bike racing against time.

 There’s a sense of humour too, with Arjun’s teething tussles with his virtual operating assistant I.R.A (the audience in the theatre twittered many times).

 ‘Attack’ flatters to deceive in a key area – the clarity in fight design in a majority of the dynamic scenes. To be fair to the movie, countless Hollywood action films make the same shoddy mistake. Both the terrorist capture sequence that starts the movie, and the sustained Arjun Vs 89 Terrorists fight scene in the Parliament’s main room, suffer the same weakness – helter-skelter scene planning, mediocre fight design and hyper-frenetic editing that obscures the clarity in a doomed bid to compensate for the weak material presented to the cutting room. 

The music is worst part of the movie. The songs are no great shakes and two of them are shoved inside the first twenty minutes, unwittingly making ‘Attack’ threaten to create a new record as the world’s first action musical. The background score is the same overboiled, done-to-death hack job and snatches of cheeky, simian notes inappropriately inform a sequence of gunfire and killing in the Parliament. 

 John Abraham should get the Best Actor Oscar, not because Abraham is a good actor (his stiff expressions remain evergreen), but because the Oscars are so dicey with their politics and selection.

‘Attack’ prises open the door a bit more for the rest of Hindi cinema to muscle in and up the ante for action and tech-forward movies. It fires on many fronts – one just wishes one could better see the true power and genuine clarity of the action.