Attack Movie Review: Cyborg John Abraham, but that’s about it
A loud, scattershot approach sinks this sci-fi action effort
Cybernetics? Super-soldiers? John Abraham? I was down with the premise of Attack. It sounded like a good bet. Bloatedly enthusiastic sci-fi has its place in action cinema (If you grew up with The Terminator, that is, or RoboCop). Again, the casting in these movies is crucial. In recent years, John’s characters have lost all touch with ordinary reality. They emit absolute patriotism and almost no emotions. He’s played a mix of cops, vigilantes, and military personnel. A cyborg, naturally, seemed like the next step.
Cast: John Abraham, Rakul Preet Singh, Jacqueline Fernandez, Prakash Raj, Ratna Pathak Shah
Director: Lakshya Raj Anand
Yet Attack comes a cropper. The film is too loud, too scattershot and scatterbrained, to qualify as entertainment. It begins with Indian soldier Arjun Shergill (John) successfully leading an extraction at a terror base. The mood flips to comedy, then romance, as Arjun falls for chirpy air hostess Aisha (Jacqueline Fernandez). Aisha dies in a terror attack, and Arjun is shot in the spine. Barely twenty minutes have passed. What else can happen?
Miraculously, Arjun is offered a second chance. If he agrees, of his own volition, to have a hi-tech chipset inserted into his brain, he might just rise from paralysis and return to the force. The pros outweigh the cons, including potential death. As Dr. Sabah (Rakul Preet Singh) explains, the chip will sync with his nervous system and transform him into India’s first ‘super soldier’ (move over, Bobby Deol).
The concept, however promising, fails to thrill. The trouble is, there’s nothing that cyber-enabled Arjun can do that we haven’t seen in Hindi movies, including ones with John. Hyper-fast running speeds? Check out Force (2011). Death-dealing knife skills? Try Rocky Handsome (2016). As for him revving up a bike and zooming off without a helmet, well, what can be a better throwback to Dhoom (2004)?
Arjun’s transformation coincides, conveniently enough, with a Parliament attack in Delhi. It’s not 2001, though the terrorists are definitely from LeT. Debutant director Lakshya Raj Anand has fun with this mingling of fact and fiction. There are swipes at Uri—a 2019 film that has come to define patriotic action in India—as well as a particularly doting Home Minister. Attack is often self-aware and funny, but it also has a habit of talking down to the audience. Brain implants, for example, yield a reference to Elon Musk, drone attacks to Star Wars. Ira, Arjun’s virtual voice assistant, is like “Siri, Alexa and Google Home,” we’re told. The one time the science is vaguely Indianised is when a shloka plays in the background.
Rescuing hostages (including the Prime Minister) and liberating his country’s parliament is a good enough motivation for a soldier. Attack, though, must continually up the stakes for Arjun. He has history with the main villain, Hamid Gul (Elham Ehsas), and almost every female character is assaulted for the hero’s rise. “Lock the door, stay inside, stay safe,” Arjun tells Sabah (he isn’t wrong, given the situation, but the dialogue grates). John, ever the saviour, is occasionally caught off guard, like when Ira tells him to shut up and watch her fight. You go, girl!