Sunday, February 26, 2017

Movie Review: Split

After delivering absolute crackers like The Sixth Sense, M Night Shyamalan has had a string of movies that frequently show up on the worst movies list - but critics are going gaga over his latest - a psycho thriller in which James McAvoy plays a victim of childhood abuse, suffering from dissociative identity disorder with 23 distinct personalities. 

The film opens to a gripping scene in which one of his evil avatars kidnaps three young girls, locking them away in an underground bunker. McAvoy delivers a memorable performance, even though the director never develops, or even exposes more than a handful of the 23 personalities. McAvoy swings effortlessly between the sinister Dennis and the female avatar Patricia, to the kiddo Hedwig and a gay fashion designer Barry, but the movie never really builds up a gripping tempo. The 3 girls are completely wasted. Scenes show promise, but then just like the lethargic girls, die out with a whimper. The premise of a person with 23 completely disconnected personalities (and then add some supernatural stuff to it) opens up so many interesting possibilities in screenplay and story - and it was disappointing that the film meanders towards a predictable end. 

Unlike most of Shyamalan's movies, the end is predictable, and the "twist" when it comes, is more like a squirm in your seat, almost as if you are willing your body to react, so you justify sitting through until the credits begin to roll..

Movie Review: Rangoon

Set in the 40s, towards the end of the second world war, Rangoon is a love triangle between a married rich producer Russi Billimoria (Saif Ail Khan), the heart throb of the nation, the daredevil actress Julia (Kangana Ranaut) and Jamadar Nawab Malik (Shahid Kapoor), a braveheart in the British Army fighting against the invading Japanese. When the British convince Russi to send his paramour Julia to the Indo-Burma border to regale the troops, Jamadar Malik is assigned as her body guard. War is no hurdle to a passionate romance, and Jamadar Malik falls madly in love with the free spirited Julia, who finds in him a release from Russi's possessive, protective nature (he calls her his "kiddo", treating her as his expensive toy, albeit always with love and respect). But Julia finds out that Malik is a spy - he works for Bose's INA, and is tasked with spiriting out an expensive, exquisite sword to fund the INA's war effort. Will he win over Julia, or will she turn him over to Russi and the British? Or will there be another twist in this wartime romance saga?

Rangoon scores a perfect 10 on cinematography and set design. The locales are absolutely stunning, and the grim war scenes have been shot at a quality rarely seen in Bollywood. Even the lighting is spot on. My favorites are the plane attack on the river, and the mud fight between Shahid and Kangana.

Saif is dependable as Russi Billimoria, a dangerous streak always underlying, but never really surfacing. Shahid is also restrained and sincere. But Kangana absolutely hits it out of the park with a performance that's sexy, childishly innocent, free spirited, and very lovable. This is one Bollywood actor that never fails to wow!

However, the film lacks the razor edge that would have made this an extraordinary movie. While the first half sets up the stage beautifully, the story meanders post the interval - and the screenplay takes a major hit too. Even the liplocks between Shahid and Kangana lack chemistry and feels very superficial. The movie is peppered with songs that do not add too much value to the narrative, although "Yeh Ishq Hai" is very soulful! The climax, when it finally arrives, is dragged on forever, and could have been easily snipped nice and short to leave audiences desperate for more, instead of relieved that it's finally over!

A little less indulgence, and Rangoon would have been a “Bloody hell’ of a movie!

ps: Do not miss the wonderful rendition of Azad Hind's anthem, a beautiful version of the Indian national anthem!

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Movie Review: The Ghazi Attack

On the sidelines of the much written about 1971 war, another intense battle was fought in the deep, murky waters of the Bay of Bengal - between the dreaded Pakistani submarine, the PNS Ghazi, and an Indian submarine, the S-21. Tasked to take out the INS Vikrant, which was proving to be impossible to tackle for the Pakistanis seeking to send supplies for its army in the East, the Ghazi runs into the S-21, sent on a recce mission with clear orders not to engage. With radio communication down, and the sub severely crippled by a cunningly placed mine, the sub's brave crew will need nothing short of a miracle to come on top in a deadly game of cat and mouse!

In shots and sequences reminiscent of that other wonderful sub movie "The Hunt For Red October", The Ghazi Attack scores the full monty on the screenplay in the cramped, really authentic-looking interiors of a 70s sub, and the maneuvers as the two commanders pitch their experience and skill against each other. The performances, led by Kay Kay Menon, Rana Daggubati and Atul Kulkarni as the S-21's officers, are honest and restrained, and Taapsee, in a tiny, special appearance, adds just the wee bit of color to the drab interiors of S-21. The only let down are the pot-bellied officers of the Southern Naval Command (notably Om Puri in a distinctly uncomfortable role) and the unshaven, unkempt, disheveled crew of the S-21, more likely to be found in fishy fishing boats fishing for fishy stuff in enemy waters!

To the credit of the SFX and camera team, most of the sequences underwater look authentic, although a couple of Titanisque shots could have been done much better. The movie has not one, but two renditions of the national anthem, and the Supreme Court ruling allowing citizens not to stand up for the anthem if it is part of a movie will seem to have come at just the right time for many!

Like the longest disclaimer in the history of movie-making claims at the beginning, the movie is a fictionalized version of the events, and the real truth may never be known. This was a classified mission, and the Pakistanis claimed the Ghazi sunk due to an explosion on board. But that shouldn't deter you from raising a toast to the brave soldiers of the Indian Navy!