Mission Istanbul has some superbly skilful editing. The editor's scissors snip through the material on international terrorism demonstrating a tailor's tight command over size and measurement.
In fact, editor Rajesh Singh's work is so exemplary in the first half, you sort of brace yourself for something grander in the second.
Alas, the pace and sheer velocity of the first half slackens. Post-intermission the plot becomes just another 'two heroes fighting the baddies' film that we have been watching from the time when villains were smugglers and then gangsters. Now they are tycoons in Saville Row suits!
Terrorism goes international with a screenplay that's blessedly free of the amateurism that we have come to associate with cinema on terrorism in our country.
Lakhia and his co-writer Suresh Nair get the politics of terrorism dead-on. And the virility of the Turkish outdoors lends credence to the volatile goings-on.
Ironically, the hub of terrorist activities in 'Mission Istanbul' is a news channel whose head, played by Nikitin Dheer, hobnobs with a bearded terrorist (Shabbir Ahluwalia).
There are also flashes of humour in the story, miraculously woven into the stern fabric of terrorism.
The dialogues between 'George Bush' (played by an impersonator) and his aide are really funny.
But some portions go over the top. Like when Shriya Sharan, who plays Zayed's journalist wife, is shown interviewing Omar Abdullah, her cellphone keeps ringing, until the politician politely asks her to take it.
But one surely can't take such silly liberties in a film that seems to have researched international terrorism with some attention before plunging into the project.
Lakhia knows how to handle vast crowds caught in terrifying insurgent violence. The canvas though crammed with exploding guns and ricocheting power games never loses its vision, momentum and humour.
In a bizarre sequence of comic violence, Vivek Oberoi wrenches off a victim's hands and uses them for hand-print entry into a forbidden area of the terrorist headquarters - the TV channel.
Zayed Khan as a newsreader clearly gets to cross all boundaries of duty. He tackles terrorists and alongside makes room to shake a leg on the dance floor.
The attempt to bring in conventional song-and-dance into a rigorous film on Islamic terrorism is not quite misplaced. Lakhia pulls off the coup with energy and elan. Full credit goes to the film's super action sequences orchestrated by Javed and Aejaz.
Amar Mohile's over-emphatic background score slams in the mood of danger and intrigue.
'Mission Istanbul' works big time as an action thriller. The director creates a mood that swings dangerously between a Hardy Boys adventure and a 'Barkha Dutt in the war zone' kind of news story. That Lakhia pulls it off with a near-effortless outflow of energy is a miracle of sorts.
There is nothing dreamy about this mission. But the subplot about the estranged journalist couple with a romantic song thrown in is as convincing as a devotional song in a beer bar.
There's a time and place for everything and 'Mission Istanbul' gets it right most of the time. The boys are all fully clued into the mood.
Zayed Khan shows remarkable restrain in the most outrageous of situations like the one where Viveik and he share colas and kisses with a 'desi' Lara Croft who may or may not be from the enemy camp.
Vivek Oberoi, with his flowing hair and full-on body language, proves himself a pro at the pyrotechnics. He has a real blast.
Not for the squeamish and certainly not for lovelorn dreamers, 'Mission Istanbul' is a rollercoaster of action, terrorism and revenge that seldom pauses for breath.
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