2.5 Stars (out of 4)
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Wazir (“Queen,” as in the chess piece) opens with a bang but fails to earn its too-tidy ending.
The setup of Wazir is not to be missed. A montage of happy moments introduces anti-terrorism officer Daanish (Farhan Akhtar), loving husband of Ruhana (Aditi Rao Hydari) and doting father of little Noorie. While running errands with his family in Delhi, Daanish spots a high-profile terrorist who was thought to be out of the country. Daanish pursues him, with catastrophic results. The sequence is fast, intense, and jaw-dropping.
Suspended from the force and guilt-stricken, Daanish befriends Noorie’s chess teacher, Panditji (Amitabh Bachchan). From his motorized wheelchair, Panditji teaches chess to children, all of whom outclass Daanish. Panditji informs his new student that the point of studying chess isn’t necessarily to win but to learn how to learn.
Panditji has an ulterior motive in befriending Daanish. One year earlier, Panditji’s adult daughter, Nina, died under mysterious circumstances in the home of the nation’s Welfare Minister, Izaad Qureshi (Manav Kaul). Qureshi says that Nina accidentally fell down a flight of stairs, but Panditji claims that he could tell from the look in Qureshi’s eyes that Nina was murdered.
A look in the eye is not much to go on. While the movie presents reasons to be suspicious of Qureshi, Panditji and Daanish don’t have access to the same evidence that the audience does. All the characters have to go on is Panditji’s gut feeling.
It’s hard to believe that Daanish would risk his life and career on the hunch of a man he only recently met. Even harder to accept is the participation of Daanish’s ranking officer (played in a cameo by John Abraham) in a crazy scheme that should result in his and Daanish’s court-martial at best, their deaths at worst.
The only reason that Daanish can take such risks based on so little information is that the story refuses to impose consequences on him. After brilliantly setting up Daanish as a man struggling with the consequences of a rash action, by movie’s end, he’s free to do whatever he wants in the name of what he considers justice. Never mind that he and John Abraham maim and possibly kill innocent people in the process.
In the course of the unsatisfying climax, the truth about Nina’s death is revealed in a way that feels too convenient. It doesn’t feel earned.
That said, the performances in the film are generally good, especially by Bachchan, who looks physically broken and world-weary. Akhtar is solid, but his character’s emotional range is limited by the plot (same for Hydari’s character). Abraham is good in his cameo, as is Anjum Sharma, who plays Daanish’s reliable friend and coworker, Sartaj.
Another selling point is Wazir‘s efficient runtime of just over one hundred minutes. The movie is exactly as long as it should be to sustain tension.
While imperfect as a whole, Wazir‘s thrilling opening action sequence is almost good enough to merit a trip to the theater. Almost.