Movie Review: Agent Vinod

Let me begin this way. Saif Ali Khan's Agent Vinod isn't that bad as people are telling it to be. Known for critically acclaimed thrillers like Ek Hasina Thi and Johnny Gaddaar, director Sriram Raghavan's 70's styled ode to the spy thriller genre is a good attempt at dishing out a slick potboiler; an opportunity that seemed to slip away with mindless action movies like Don, Players to name a few.

To start off, the titular character is James Bond, Ethan Hunt and Jason Bourne all rolled into one stylish, smart and uber-cool alpha male who sets off on a globetrotting adventure, accompanied by a Pakistani ISI agent Iram Parveen Bilal (Kareena Kapoor), across Afghanistan, Moscow, Morocco, Latvia, Somalia, Karachi, New Delhi and London in an attempt to avert a titanic nuclear disaster. And that pretty much sums up the story. Yeah, you read it right.

Touted as a complete action entertainer, AV boasts of enough thrills (by Peter Hein) to keep you engrossed and enthralled - the opening sequence in Afghanistan, the poetically choreographed action piece at a motel in Latvia as the romantic track Raabta echoes in the backdrop, the scene where  Ilaiyaraaja's Rakkamma Kaiya Thattu drowns out the duel between Vinod and a goon in an inter-weaved flashback cum real-time action all bear hallmarks to the director's brilliance. The retro-styled background score by Daniel George sets the mood aptly while C. K. Muraleedharan's lenswork breathtakingly captures the various cities and the tension alive.

What doesn't work in the movie's favour is its protracted length and the director's attempts to cram in too many things into the plot. With a wayfaring ride that covers almost eight to ten cities, the story is at times trying and perplexing as it meanders aimlessly in trying to figure out an asinine puzzle. The loopholes are glaring and Pritam's compositions seem incongruent to the tone of the film.

It's possible that Raghavan wanted to kill two birds with one stone - create a Hollywood'ish action thriller with a Bollywood throwback - but the result is a fast paced action movie with villains lifted straight out of the 70's era. The climactic scene where Iram blurts out the password to Vinod as she is in the throes of death is risibly ridiculous and can happen only in Indian cinema.

Moving on to the performances, Saif Ali Khan is tailor-made for the role of RAW Agent Vinod and he brings in the style and charisma to the character remarkably well. On the other hand, Kareena Kapoor seems to be sleepwalking through her role and remains indifferent to the proceedings. Her character hasn't been etched well, and despite being an ISI agent herself, she is content playing the damsel in distress, and her chemistry with Saif at best tepid and lacklustre. Amongst the others, Adil Hussain and Dhritiman Chaterji are superbly cast and deliver credible support to the film with their fine acting.

Logic is something that you shouldn't be expecting in a spy thriller (do you really care about such stuff from a James Bond/Mission Impossible movie?) and Agent Vinod is no different. Sriram Raghavan's latest film may not be as good as his prior outings, but it's still fun escapist fare - one that you can rightfully call a guilty pleasure!

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