Quite a few films have ‘Baby” in the title. Far too many to mention here and now beyond a few. But rest assured that this film is not about children, or a cute pig (Babe), or the spawn of the devil (Rosemary’s Baby), and it has no reference in the world of sweethearts as in romantic comedies, or sexy clothing on nubile young things (Baby Doll), or even screwball comedies (Bringing Up Baby).
What we have here is a first-rate action thriller. Baby is actually a reference within the Intelligence and Operations arm of the Indian government – specifically in the Anti-terrorism branch. It is simply a small outfit that handles black ops and will be disavowed by the government in worst case scenarios.
They are headed up in New Delhi by a civilian officer (Feroz Ali Khan) played by Danny Denzongpa, who has enough juice to be able to get in and see the country’s Prime Minster on extremely short notice. The chief field operative is Ajay played by the film’s lead Akshay Kumar.
The film opens in Istanbul, Turkey. Ajay is tracking down a former associate in Baby (the nickname for this Anti-terrorism group) who has now gone rogue. The group is so new that they’re on what is called a five-year trial basis, so new that no one knows the specifics about them (to ensure plausible deniability), so secret that Ajay cannot even tell his wife about what he does for a living, and they work the absolutely most dangerous of missions with full knowledge that the Indian government will not protect them.
They are simply super patriots if they succeed on their missions, or sacrificed if they don’t.
From Istanbul where we get chases, and gunplay, to Kathmandu in Nepal, for more of the same, and finally to Al-Deera, in Saudia Arabia – there’s no shortage of exotic locales – all beautifully shot on location. I believe I read that Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) was the stand in for the Saudi scenes.
The film is long on action and filled with plenty of tense moments. From stakeouts to chases, to cat and mouse stalking plays, to terrific hand-to-hand combat – this film looks and feels great. By the same token – the film is equally strong from a logic standpoint as it is when violence is called for..
This is a Bollywood film that sharply veers away from the usual. There are no musical interludes, no scenes of lovers playing in a beautiful alpine setting or on a lush tropical beach. There are no featured dance numbers, and best of all – the acting is top shelf throughout.
The film is directed and written by Neeraj Pandey. I have previously watched and reviewed his film A Wednesday, and Special 26 which I did not review. Both impressed me greatly. I think it fair to say that this is his best effort yet.
The film was popularly received by the Indian press and without giving away anything more about the plot details – the bad guys in this film had the look and feel of Muslims. As such, the film has been banned in Pakistan.
But, I believe the film lacks what is usually considered jingoistic or overly nationalist themes.
I found the film exciting, plausible, and worthy of merit wherever on this planet the film might be shown.
Okay, the film is not without some flaws. Ajay is more of a single operative than a team player. So while this film can be called a relative of the Mission Impossible films it is not really all that close. And there are no latex masks. Ajay is alone in Turkey, uses a woman (the proverbial honey-trap) in Kathmandu, and in Al-Deera there is a computer guy and a guy along for muscle plus a deep cover asset already based in country. So the story has the three main locations and what amounts to three set pieces. Plus the meetings at the Center in New Delhi and a bombing target in Mumbai.
So we spend almost all of the film with Ajay. Of course this is not a bad thing, as Akshay Kumar is excellent in this one. The director does use a weak family thread (Ajay’s wife and two small kids) as sort of repetitive catch your breath type of interval. But watching him lie to his wife (I’m in a conference – I’ll see you soon) is kind of trite and becomes stale the second and third time around.
But these scenes don’t take a lot of time – so there’s not shortage of action.
While the film is quite violent and is not suitable for kids, it is more than suitable as a slick, taut and exciting adult thriller. Recommended and the DVD is available on Amazon or you can find it on eBay. Four point zero out of five.