It is quite rare that counter-terrorism is a pivotal backdrop in Bollywood within action-thriller and ‘cyberpunk’ films. Attack by debutant director Lakshya Raj Anand aims to reinvent both these styles in commercial Hindi cinema.
The storyline of the film revolves around Abraham’s character Arjun, an army veteran. After a terrorist attack, he gets paralysed and battles his inner demons. A ray of hope appears after he volunteers to become part of a governmental experiment to become a cybertronic humanoid super-soldier developed to combat terrorism. Determining each action he takes is an AI software called ‘IRA’, a voice that almost mirrors his conscious.
Firstly, the concept of amalgamating virtual reality with a war situation is quite fascinating. In fact, the movie releases in time as DRDO (Defence Research and Development Organisation) is making exoskeletons for the Indian Army. This means the country is creating super soldiers to prevent collateral damage and loss of lives. Through the film’s depiction, it is empowering to see how this can provide a second chance to the physically challenged.
Attack’s use of VFX and the video-game action, is captivating to watch. Very few Hindi movies have gotten this technique right but here, it goes many steps forward. John Abraham, as always, is intrepid and his character provides a voice for the Indian armed forces. With patriotism as a subliminal theme, the picture does not dive into jingoism or in-your-face nationalism. Nor does it villainise the opposing country. Pride and bravery are seen effortlessly through his passion as a soldier.
Also, a special mention goes to Shashwat Sachdev’s music is terrific. The EDMs and electrifying beats are stylish and enrich the viewing experience. ‘La La La’ will certainly be a new motivational anthem. The drops are super engaging. As such, Sachdev’s background score is the soul of Attack. This is one of my favourite Bollywood soundtracks of 2022.
Besides John, I feel Prakash Raj delivers a good performance as a high-ranking governmental officer. Rakul Preet Singh as Saba Qureshi the creator of the Artificial Intelligence program is okay. Glad that she is not seen as a mere second-fiddle to the male lead. Jacqueline Fernandez gets limited scope. Her character is similar to that of Bachchhan Paandey. Ratna Pathak Shah is seen briefly as Arjun’s mother and as always, she is wonderful.
The movie, though, weakens due to the cliche representations. Lakshya Raj Anand makes his directorial debut. To make an action movie of this sort is certainly a major challenge. However, he falls for cliches. Especially through a paper-thin/cheesy romance angle, caricature portrayals of politicians (a la Rajit Kapoor) and foolish security do a slight disservice to the flag-waving concept. Moreover, the editing seems messy, with an interval randomly appearing. This could’ve been smoother.
The premise seems to be inspired by the 2001 Indian Parliament Attack. I am sure that India’s security forces have tightened and become sharper since then. We are living in 2022. Observing weak security and foolish security seems outdated, almost unbelievable. With technology involved, one initially thought that the war would’ve been cyber-based. I strongly feel that this would’ve made the movie more relatable to the digital world we are living in.
In addition, perhaps the setting for the first instalment of this creation could’ve been based on an ordinary location like a shopping centre. Infiltration through such an accessible location would’ve made the threat feel closer to home. There have been instances in the past, such as Nairobi’s Westgate Mall, wherein terrorists ambushed innocent civilians. Unfortunately, the climax and build-up to the main action do not allow viewers to be fully invested. It seems rushed and lacks depth.
Having said that, Attack is certainly a decent endeavour. To evoke change within an established genre template like ‘action’ is never easy. John is formidable to watch. It would be unkind for this movie to be compared with other Hollywood movies as this one aims to be for the ‘New India’ audiences. Not every Hindi film needs to appease international viewers.
While there are several flaws in this first part, I believe that there is potential for this movie to grow as a dynamic franchise. But more development and experience will be necessary. Half a star extra for the VFX/action and the attempt to deliver something new.