REVIEW: “Pathaan” (2023)

Bursting at the seams with high-caliber action and loads of panache, “Pathaan” is an off-the-charts, full-throttle Bollywood blockbuster in every sense. Furiously directed by Siddharth Anand, this fourth installment in the YRF Spy Universe flaunts the star power of Shah Rukh Khan, Deepika Padukone, and John Abraham. It’s somewhat of a comeback role for the screen veteran Khan, who after a four-year hiatus shows he still has the grit and charisma to fuel this fun and fast-paced Hindi-language action thriller.

Written by Shridhar Raghavan and Abbas Tyrewala from a story conceived by Anand, “Pathaan” follows a RAW field agent on a mission to stop a rogue agent with a serious ax to grind with his home country. That probably sounds strikingly similar to the previous film in the universe, 2019’s stellar “War”. But “Pathaan” has its own twists, turns, and angles while still capturing the spirit of its predecessor. And the potential it teases for the future is pretty exciting.

Much like “War”, Anand once again spans the globe, making stops at eye-catching vistas in India, France, Russia, Afghanistan, and Spain among other places. Along with DP Satchith Paulose, Anand uses his locations to soak us in the size and scope of the story. Not only are they beautiful to look at, but they also set the stage for some incredible set pieces which are ultimately the movie’s bread and butter.

The story itself has all the marks of a classic spy picture, from the fist-pumping thrills to the undeniable silliness. In 2019, the Indian government’s decision to revoke Article 370 of its constitution enrages a cancer-stricken Pakistani general named Qadir (Manish Wadhwa). Not trusting his own government to handle things to his liking, the embittered Qadir reaches out to the leader of a privately funded terrorist outfit called “Outfit X” who goes by the name of Jim (Abraham).

As it turns out, Jim is an ex-RAW agent believed to be dead by the Indian government. He too wants India to pay but for reasons entirely his own. He takes Qadir’s offer and begins hatching a plan to bring his former country to its knees. When RAW gets wind that Jim is very much alive and up to something big, senior officer Nandini (a terrific Dimple Kapadia) summons field agent Pathaan (Khan) to head the new “Joint Operation and Covert Research” unit (aka JOCR). Their first order of business – head to Dubai to stop the assassination of India’s president by Outfit X.

Along the way Pathaan learns that a former ISI agent named Rubina Mohsin (Padukone) is involved, although figuring out whose side she’s on proves difficult. Like a classic Bond girl, Padukone adds some spice and brings an air of mystery to the story, all while sharing some good chemistry with Khan. Unfortunately she sometimes gets lost in the plot’s breakneck maneuvering which is too bad considering the energy she brings to several of her scenes.

But it all comes down to Khan and Abraham, and the cat and mouse game between the film’s hero and villain. Anand knows what he has in them, and he really leans into what they bring to the screen. Khan shows he has the chops to be a full-blown action star while Abraham brings plenty of swagger, making him a diverting antagonist. And regardless of the story’s tendency to veer off into the preposterous, the two stars, along with the eye-popping visual spectacle, the kinetic pacing, a cracking score, and one very exciting cameo, keep things fun. It’s popcorn pleasure at its finest.


9 thoughts on “REVIEW: “Pathaan” (2023)

  1. Pingback: REVIEW: “Pathaan” (2023) – sylveryak

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s