-MASSIVE SPOILER ALERT-
I felt that this film was released amidst a lot of extraneous fanfare in the country, which included substantial political and religious strife (mostly politically induced) and hype. I am not a fan of politics, nor am I a fan of communalism, religious extremism, religion in general, and most importantly, I am not a blind nationalist or patriot. You know the kind I’m talking about. I don’t give unnecessary importance to facets associated by society with patriotism such as religion or the national anthem. Don’t get me wrong, I sing the national anthem while standing in attention as I have been programmed to since as long as I can remember, but I don’t associate feelings of aggression, revenge, or hate for a neighboring country or fellow human beings just because someone may hold a different view from that of the common breed. I, on the other hand, try to be patriotic by not littering, being quiet, not pushing my opinions on others, not judging people for their food choices, and generally being nice to people around me as far as possible (except maybe towards Facebook idiots and dumb drivers).
I’m writing this review as a military movie and tv series buff. I like explosions, military aircraft, weapons, combat video games and first person shooters, tech, and other such paraphernalia. I’ve always liked Tom Clancy’s books, military and warfare themed video games like Splinter Cell, Ghost Recon, Rainbow Six, Call of Duty, Battlefield, Medal Of Honor, and other such games. I can go on and on and on. The list of military movies Hollywood has given the world is endless, but the ones (off the top of my head) that have left a lasting impact on me, are Black Hawk Down, Full Metal Jacket, Saving Private Ryan, Secret Soldiers of Benghazi, Platoon, Behind Enemy Lines, Lone Soldier, The Thin Red Line, The Great Escape, The Bridge On The River Kwai, and two TV series that I binge watched called Band of Brothers and The Unit. The reason I’m laying down this premise before delving into my views on Uri: The Surgical Strike, is so that you, the reader, understands that I’m not coming from any other mindset apart from this.
The Film – A Background
The film is based on the alleged surgical strikes carried out by the Indian Army and intelligence agencies on 29th September 2016 in retaliation to the attack carried out by militants on 18th September of the same year on a military base in Uri, in the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir. If one spends some time reading about the entire incident, or remembers the media reports surrounding the event when it happened, the allegations are so strongly opposed, denied, and varied by both sides, i.e. India and Pakistan, as well as riddled with controversy and inconsistency by the multitude of national and international media organizations, that the only safe assumption for a lay person like me is that nobody really knows what happened. There’s plenty of information online and it makes for an interesting read (notwithstanding the due condolences and respect for the lives laid down by our nation’s soldiers at the line of duty). I also feel that the speculation and mystery surrounding what actually happened should be left to interpretation in movies and books and limited to what they are worth for the masses, i.e. entertainment.
Right from the opening scene, I was hooked. There’s no other way in which to describe it. The scenes are gripping, and the sounds and visuals are fantastic. The skirmishes between Indian special ops and militants in their base are proper high quality production with excellent direction, screenplay, script, and execution. Not a single moment stood out as dumb, lame, or unnecessary. The gun battles in this particular cinema (INOX) in Mumbai were deafening, but as a proper gun battle would be if you were in it. I was immersed. The tactical domination with which our boys infiltrate the first militant camp on the Indo-Myanmar border is fantastic. Rockets ripping through the trees to find their mark resulting in jaw dropping explosions, bullet trails and ricochets, the light and rapid footfall of soldiers moving with perfectly choreographed military precision to dispatch their enemies all making up the gory macabre of war complete in surround sound was all too good for me. Needless to say, I had goose pimples galore. The scenes show cinematic production skills not seen before in Indian cinema. Even largely hyped multi million rupee vfx budgets like Baahubali didn’t generate the same grade of goose flesh like this did, for at the end of the day, you know you were looking at fantasy there. But here, the scenes were raw, brutal and mind numbingly real. Vicky Kaushal did justice to his role as Major Vihan Singh Shergill, and how. This is perfect casting.
I’d have trouble adjusting to an overactor like SRK (with all the lip quivering and watery eyes), Salman Khan with his trademark stoic expression and veteran macho level 999 like acting, and pretty boys like Hrithik Roshan and Tiger Shroff who I feel would at best suit roles as…pretty boys who know how to shake a leg and woo ze ladies. Let’s not even look in the direction of Ranbir Kapoor and Ranvir Singh. Saif Ali and Amir Khan (the latter being one of my favourite Bollywood actors) again, just don’t fit the role in my opinion.
Vicky Kaushal on the other hand is entirely believable, jawan ready, raw, and as real as it gets. The first obliteration of the militant base is executed with perfection. I’m not going to give you a bullet by bullet narration of how the scene unfolds. You’ve got to watch and actually experience it.
The movie tells a story of how Shergill is commended for his role in leading the special ops attacks against the bad guys and is provided with a convenient transfer to Delhi in a pencil pushing role so that he can be close to his mother who’s ailing from Alzheimer’s Disease (the real killer ladies and gentlemen). The brass even provide his family with a full time nurse (played by the smart and able Yami Gautam) to care for his mater.
During the initial stages, Shergill’s squad buddy and brother in law Major Karan Kashyap (played by Bollywood debutant Mohit Raina) is killed in the Uri attack and is then given a funeral with full military honors along with the other martyred soldiers. The scene reduced me to tears when his minor daughter amidst her tears proudly yells out the battalion war cry to the resounding and powerful war cry from all the soldiers at the funeral.
I particularly felt Manish Raina is a solid actor for the role he played.
The only let downs in the movie can be summarized as follows:
The comical and clumsy Pakistani officials: The flatulent Defence minister and the drinking bad golfer military officer added an element of comic relief which was uncalled for in light of the seriousness and accuracy of the other scenes in the movie.
The unnecessary and cliche usage of the word “Janaab” in all their speech, which as stated by Mahwash Ajaz in her opinion, is not true. Perhaps this point and the one before it also should have been progressively and accurately addressed just like the other facets of the movie.
The weapons used in the highly covert surgical strike should have been silenced. The gun battle is so loud that it nullified any element of covertness that the whole operation was supposedly based on. I drooled at the prospect of the sniper and assault rifles going “tchk tchk tchk” rather than the non-silenced loud ones used in the movie. Night vision, stealth and covert ops always go well with silenced weapons to contribute to the efficiency of a covert military operation.
The chopper pilot, who was conveniently included into the mission for her longing to avenge her martyred husband was a tad bit overdone. Her husky and sassy line “yeh aapke liye hai” just before she lets loose her chopper mounted minigun (and ended up completely missing the target) was so lame.
The bird drone intern. The intern who’s time pass project was impromptu selected as the eyes of the mission (“Son, you may have just won us the war” as Rawal says out of the blue) was thrown into the thick of military intelligence ops to be the eyes of the squads on the ground. Right. The bird was a nice touch though. Not that it was physically possible to fly and hover the way it did, but it was fun.
Better casting for the RAW/intelligence agent and nurse played by Yami Gautam. With her pristine model like looks, you might as well have cast Katrina Kaif. The torture scene where she’s twiddling the ear crunching pliers just wasn’t right. My vote goes to Radhika Apte.
The last kill by Kaushal (when he finishes off the terrorist handler Idris) could have been a little more cheer inducing and boss fight worth. He just sort of bends backwards while holding the chap in a sort of sleeper hold and yells “INDIAN AAAAAAARMYYYYYY”, which in my opinion, fell short of the otherwise adrenaline pumped action in the movie.
Apart from those tiny technical and otherwise observations, Uri is a stonker of a military action film and I felt it was mostly flawless. My family loved the film too, including my retired Colonel father in law, who post the film stated “the film was 70% accurate, even with regard to the army ops and execution”. The army lads exude every bit of gallantry that they’re so proud of. The beards (special ops so it wasn’t against regulation just for those who felt it wasn’t accurate) were on point. The musical score and background were splendid. The visuals and sounds are of exceedingly high quality, and the story line is crisp and directed so well. For a debutant director, Aditya Dhar has made one hell of an entrance and given India a military film it can proudly flaunt. I’d place it on as high a pedestal as that occupied by other Hollywood greats such as Black Hawk Down.
An overall 4/5 for me.