Uri: The Surgical Strike comes with a disclaimer. It might be based on real events, but it is fictionalised for dramatic effect. The real events themselves are shrouded in fogginess. We have all seen in the news about how four terrorists got into our Indian military camp in Uri, Kashmir in 2016. While they were killed, we also lost 19 men in the process. In retaliation, ten days later, the Indian camp claims to have carried out surgical strikes in terrorist camps across PoK, killing around 35-40 militants. Pakistan denied such attack happened, which India claimed that our neighbour had no choice but to do so. Recently, Republic TV even released some of the footage, that the government denied sharing with them. Director Aditya Dhar's film is based on this controversial episode. Shoaib Ibrahim's 'Uri-Based' Film and Vicky Kaushal's 'Uri' To Clash At The Box-Office.
The film actually begins a year before the Uri attack - in 2015. We are introduced to Major Vihaan Shergill (Vicky Kaushal), when his team does a strike operation on a North Eastern militant camp in Manipur. This operation itself is retaliation after an Indian army convoy was attacked by these militants. Anyway, Vihaan, now an army hero, settles for a desk job in New Delhi so that he can take care of his mother (Swaroop Sampat), who suffers from Alzheimer's.
While he slowly adjusts to his new job, four militants infiltrate into the Indian army post in Uri and destroy the camps, resulting in deaths of few of our soldiers. Vihaan's brother-in-law (Mohit Raina) also gets killed while gunning down the terrorists. The Indian Defence team, not willing to be seen as a weaker side, plans a surgical strike on the terrorist camps across the border, as suggested by their military adviser (Paresh Rawal). A grieving, anguished Vihaan volunteers to lead a team to avenge the deaths of his fellow soldiers.
There is no doubt about the intentions of why Uri The Surgical Strike is releasing in the same year as the general elections are happenings. The surgical strikes have been a feather in the cap for the ruling government, even though the opposition and certain publications allege that some of the claims (casualties, the scale of the operation) are exaggerated.
I really have no clue whom to believe, so I am reviewing the film assuming that most of the operations that are shown in the film have happened. Even then, viewing the film with this thought in mind comes with its own set of problems.
Let me share first what I liked about the film. Uri the movie has the advantage of its technical team being the competent best, the direction being effective and the leading man on a roll. The military operations, even when stretched (more on this later), look realistic and you need to thank the action choreography of Stefan Richter for that. I, especially, was in awe of the Uri attack, particularly the scene when Mohit Raina's character runs fast to avoid getting hit by machine gun fire. Or the scene in the second chapter where a top view of a jungle shows a missile being launched towards a militant camp. The hitting of bullets on human bodies feel real and as far as my limited knowledge of army technicality goes, the operations feel authentic.
These scenes are well-aided by appropriate use of camera-work (Mitesh Mirchandani), though sometimes it gets too shaky, and a terrific background score by Shashwat Sachdev. The costume designs also deserve a special mention. The idea of dividing the film into chapters makes it easy for a normal viewer to follow the film with ease.
Aditya Dhar, in his directorial debut, has done a fine job of making Uri fairly engaging and never making it feel like it is his first movie. There is enough research done on some of the aspects shown in the film, as the makers claim they have taken the information available in the public domain. However, Dhar's hard work is often let down by some very average writing. Salman Khan Pretends to Sleep as Vicky Kaushal Proposes Katrina Kaif! (Watch Video).
For even when Uri has the guts to show a controversial episode in Indian military history, it isn't that gutsy enough. For one, it follows a fictional hero in Vihaan Singh, a character that has nothing to do with either the real Uri attack or the surgical strike. There is nothing wrong in following fictional heroes in a real war-based film. We have had films like Border and Saving Private Ryan with great results. However, Uri gets confused whether it wants to be a jingoistic attempt like Border or a realistic thriller like Zero Dark Thirty, losing much of its impact in the process.
Like, we are given this whole family subplot for Vihaan in an attempt to make him fleshed out. It may give his character that emotional edge to connect with the audience, but the whole angle feels pointless in the second half when the surgical strike operation begins. Here, instead, we spend too much time on a geeky intern and his spy contraption slyly named Garuda. Because, why not!
Even Vihaan's brother-in-law's demise takes the edge out of his devotion to the country as a soldier. The family melodrama had no real place here if the makers wanted to show a realistic thriller, which was also an issue with another movie of this ilk, Parmanu: The Story of Pokhran.
I had better hopes in the second half when, like Vihaan's team, the movie also concentrates on just the surgical strike. However, despite Dhar's best efforts, the genuine thrill factor is sorely missing, even with some manufactured attempts to raise tension in a couple of scenes. There is a bizarre Raazi-like subplot (interestingly, another film that Kaushal starred in) involving an Indian spy couple living in Pakistan, that feels out of place mostly due to the way the idea was woven in the narrative.
Thanks to these factors, the military operation had even less tension than a PUBG game. Perhaps, even the director realises this as he ditches the realism of the operation to have the hero engage in a fist-fight with a militant, while also spouting a chest-thumping line.
Watch the trailer of Uri here-
Uri's Achilles Heel is, however, in inserting the political factors surrounding the operation. It may have the guts to tell a story that the country is divided on, but it isn't courageous enough to name the ministers involved in the planning. So we have the talented Rajit Kapur masquerading as our bearded PM (physically, he is better than Vivek Oberoi in being a better Modiji. Oops! Sorry. He is just 'Prime Minister' in Uri), while we also have lookalikes of Manohar Parrikar, Arun Jaitley and Rajnath Singh strut around. This fancy dress mashup takes some of the sting out of the seriousness in the drama. I can't help but suppress a smirk when the 'leaders' in the film talk of military pride, when IRL, the Assembly right now is having a heated debate if corruption has happened in the Rafale deal.
Vicky Kaushal is having a ball with his career! Even when the writing lets his character down, Vicky manages to captivate you with a boisterous performance. He nails the look of a military officer with ease and you really feel that josh surging in you when he screams at his soldiers 'Hai Josh?'!
Paresh Rawal, who was so good in Sanju, gives a very half-baked performance here, surprisingly lacking the energy to making his character fascinating. Mohit Raina, in a brief role, is highly effective and gives Uri a couple of its empathetic moments. However, this is not his debut film, as the makers claim.
The ladies hardly get much to do here. Yami Gautam's character introduction as an intelligence officer disguised as a home nurse feels needless. She had a big scene where she gets to torture a militant sympathiser for information, only for Vicky's character to steal her glory. Kirti Kulhari has one moment in the end to shine.
- The action scenes
- Technical aspects
- Vicky Kaushal and Mohit Raina
- Some Engaging Portions
- Meandering Writing
- The family melodrama
- Lack of genuine tension
- The Flawed Intentions
There is no doubt that Uri will catch the attention of the viewers with the terrorist attack and the retaliation still fresh in our minds (and if not, there will be factors linked to the upcoming elections to remind you of that). Vicky Kaushal is very effective as the leading man. Uri, however, needed a surgical strike on its writing, as most of its effectiveness is lost in the balance between jingoism and realism.