It takes extreme guts to make a film like Romeo Akbar Walter because a.) There are quite a few controversial parts and b.) RAW demands the sensitive, impatient Indian audience to tide over these parts and see where they lead to. So, kudos to writer-Director Robbie Grewal, lead star John Abraham, and the entire team for throwing their weight behind it.
It also takes a lot of conviction and dexterity to infuse a demanding watch such as this with so much of heart while also making it engaging enough to keep the audience guessing to the very end. So, kudos to the team for that, too. The first half is admittedly quite slow, but then, the second half really picks up the pace, with several hidden clues earlier left by Grewal and his cowriters Ishraq Eba and Shreyansh Pandey being uncovered at just the right time, almost justifying the movie’s slower portions.
While John plays his part with earnestness, Mouni Roy, Sikandar Kher, and Raghubir Yadav are apt in smaller roles, and it’s great to see veteran Jackie Shroff get a meaty character after ages, which he duly sinks his teeth into from the get go. Together, with their performances and Grewal’s vision, we get India’s answer to legendary British author John le Carré’s serious, gritty spy novels — a far cry from Ian Flemming’s escapist Bond novels.
Raazi, which released last year and is based on a similar premise, may be the better spy film (if not for the slow first half and incongruous placement of songs, this could have been as good, if not better than the Alia Bhatt starrer). But, Romeo Akbar Walter poses the tougher questions and presents the uneasier moments.
It’s an extremely exacting watch that gets quite controversial and tests your patience to the limit, but offers rich reward for wading through it to the the end while also providing a welcome message on the true sense of patriotism in these confounding times of hyper-nationalism vs the privilege to remain apathetic toward your country’s interests. A line uttered by our Bindaas Bhidu sums it all up beautifully: ” He chose motherland over mother.”
Movified Rating: 3.5/5 stars