3 Reasons Why “War” is the worst that Bollywood has to offer

The Bollywood action film War starring hunks Hrithik Roshan and Tiger (*sighs*) Shroff. The film is a bullet-riddled, explosion-stuffed, CGI-polished ultranationalistic turd of a film that made a bajillion rupees in the box office and is part of a spy cinematic universe. If that doesn’t help you figure out whether or not this movie is worth watching, let me break things down for you in excruciating detail.

1. Feigned Complexity

The first issue I have with War is not that it is a sexist, nationalistic propaganda film, but that it takes itself so seriously- but we’ll circle back around. 

The movie tries its best to create likeable characters to care about by giving them these really sappy, coincidental backstories. Just stuff that’s really forced and convoluted. In the film, Roshan’s character killed Shroff’s character’s dad for being a traitor, and now Roshan has to decide whether or not to trust Shroff. In one move, we now have a weird patriarchal dynamic for these guys.

In a deviation from this discussion of building characters, I want to complain about the narrative structure of the film, because this is really lazy writing and uninspired filmmaking at its worst. This development between Roshan and Shroff, along with their reconciliation, are told in flashbacks, aka the laziest form of storytelling ever. 

The main plot follows Roshan after he has defected from the Indian government and goes rogue, killing random people in Indian intelligence. One of his proteges, Shroff, is tasked- but also not tasked- with bringing down Roshan. In the main plot thread, Shroff and Roshan butt heads but ultimately join forces when Shroff figures out that Roshan is actually assassinating traitors. Two scenes later, Shroff betrays Roshan. Roshan has already guessed that Shroff was a fake, and survives the betrayal, tracks down Shroff and they fight, indicating the climax of the film. 

In various flashbacks, we get their first ‘team up’ moment, when Shroff earns Roshan’s trust, but we also get Roshan’s motivation for defecting, and also we see realize that Shroff was murdered on a random mission and his face was stolen via face swap, explaining Shroff’s betrayal.

So, coming back to our character building, at the end of the movie we realize that first protagonist we’re expected to root for, Shroff, was actually the bad guy the whole time- but we never, ever, ever could have guessed it because they decided to go with a ‘the villains went through facial reconstruction surgery’ as a trope with little to no foreshadowing. The guy we were rooting for didn’t exist, and was instead a random nameless henchman the whole time. 

There’s a bit of explaining to do here. In Indian cinema, there’s been this annoying and recurring and lazy trope of people having surgically swapping faces. It happens in daytime soap dramas, it happens in new movies, it has happened numerous times in old movies, too. I want to blame the old John Travolta and Nick Cage movie, Face/Off for this irritation, but it doesn’t really matter. It barely even works because when you force your audience to deal with ‘we lied. This character isn’t who you think they are, they’re someone else entirely!’ it really cheapens your film. You’re taking away your audience’s emotional attachment to the character, you’re confusing our loyalties and severing our connecting to the film and the outcome of the central plot. If the guy we cared about was not who we thought he was at the most fundamental level, then… what’s the point? 

Face/Off, starring Deadpool and The Mandarin

Reflecting on the film, I actually think that they could have stuck to the same overall story if they’d framed their narrative differently. They went for this ‘flashbacks and face swap’ thing to make us think the movie is complex. It’s like taking a puzzle apart and then telling us it’s a Picasso, but in reality it’s just an unfinished children’s toy.

It’s always interesting when you flip who’s the protagonist and who’s the antagonist on the audience, but it really only works if the subject matter is complex. Like, if you’re making a movie about a war, it’s actually kinda easy. Just have us follow a soldier as he goes and fights a war, and at the end of it, have us realize that as they ‘heroically’ slaughtered his enemies, he was leaving a trail of widows and orphans. The ‘antagonist’ was really just trying to protect his people. Kinda like in Eternals, if the movie had the balls to be good and not a stupid Marvel shitshow.

2. A dynasty of mediocrity

Indian cinema is also chock full of so- called ‘Film Families’, dynasties of film stars, producers and directors. Dads who got their sons lead roles, moms who got their sons lead roles, and siblings who got their male siblings lead roles. Very rarely do the daughters get a shot at fame, but that’s also because the shelf life of Indian actresses is nearly exclusively between the ages of 18 and 25, after which they are relegated to MILF roles. Sort of like porn.

Tiger Shroff and Lisa Ann have the same amount of acting talent. Except Shroff has bigger tits.

Tiger (*sighs*) Shroff is the son of prominent Indian actor Jackie Shroff, who is a self-made figure in Bollywood. Hrithik Roshan (who is technically a talented and accomplished dancer and actor in his own right) is the son of Rakesh Roshan, who was a famous lead actor from 1970 to about 1986, and continued to be a prominent director and producer until 2019. He landed Hrithik the lead role in the Indian remake of E.T., which was, again, technically a good movie. Rakesh Roshan is also the product of nepotism, as his father was Roshan Lal Nagrath, a prominent musical director in Bollywood from 1950 to 1968.

Now, don’t get me wrong, none of these guys are void of some amount of talent and success, but you gotta admit that it’s irritating that these guys are where they are only because of their daddies. To reiterate, Hrithik Roshan does have an amount of talent and deserves part of his success, but he’s not some groundbreaking, ridiculously gifted actor. He’s mediocre at his best. Shroff, however, has delivered the WORST acting I have ever seen in my life. The boy has two expressions, and I am seriously concerned that he legitimately has no idea how to emote. True, the script didn’t really give him much to work with, but he’s just… oof. So bad. 

3. USA! USA! USA!

The film is definitely nationalist in sentiment, and has many, many examples of why being an Indian patriot is definitely a good thing. Roshan’s female plot device is killed while doing something patriotic, and it sparks his little revenge spree. Shroff decides that he can only atone for his father’s betrayal by being a soldier in the Indian army. Female character #2 invites these hunks into her bed chamber on her wedding night to perform a patriotic duty to give a hard drive to Roshan. So on and so forth.

Indian weddings are a big deal for the community and individuals, but it seems weird to me that they decided to show us that the girl stepped away from her wedding to do her duty. It’s like they’re saying that being patriotic is far more important than even her wedding- a really big day. Perhaps the biggest day in her life, considering they made the decision to have the hunks crash this event, rather than something else, like a birthday, or a graduation or literally anything else that women think is important. They’ve reduced the girl to simply: Duty and Marriage. Then there’s that weird cuckold-y scene where the two rugged, buff guys wait for her in her marital bedroom, a place where the bride and groom consummate their marriage. Just weird man.

Looping back to this idea that patriotism is a good thing, we get a ton of images of our invulnerable action stars completely obliterating reams and reams of henchman. I don’t know why, but this brainless mowing of people in the name of country is just something that resonates with me in a bad way. It may resonate with a lot of other people in a good way, though, considering India is in the throes of its own political change and a movement towards national pride. I don’t know where I stand on this issue, but I do know that I hate propaganda disguised as entertainment.

They need an Indian version of this song.

I don’t recall specifically why I wanted to watch this movie, but I did. Then I wrote way too much about it instead of doing something productive. 

3/10.

We see Tiger Shroff’s titties in this movie, so that’s cool.

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