An Inspiration to Exit?
When your own star opts to walk out of the premier, that is indicative enough that you’ve made a bad film. However, when you halt the release of said film and spend nearly two years improving it and still inspire the urge to walk out, pyrrhic doesn’t even begin to cover what you’ve achieved. I don’t mean to discourage or belittle any of the hard work that has gone into this movie. The fact remains, however, Project Ghazi is a disgruntled, disjointed, dissatisfying mess that is best forgotten. My score, 2/10.
Yeah, even I wasn’t expecting that. I don’t revel in lambasting movies, let alone any that can only be described as passion projects. However, there is no sugarcoating how horrible this was. It’s the kind of bitter that no amount of sugar can truly mask.
The Silver Lining
Before we go any further, giving you further cause to accuse me of lambasting this movie, let me mention, I had bought tickets to watch the original cut in 2017. I wasn’t fortunate enough to have watched that version of Project Ghazi so I can’t compare nor comment on the changes made. This review thus, will only focus on the new cut. My tickets then, had to be refunded. How I wish that were the case this time around too.
Let’s first talk about the two points that ensured this movie got the two points it gets. The movie is beautiful to look at (mostly). The production design is by far, the best I’ve seen in a Pakistani movie. Each set piece, though not massive, is incredibly detailed. The costumes and wardrobe also aren’t over the top either. (Yeah I’m grasping at straws here).
All of that is helped by good cinematography. The camera, for the most part, captures each scene with great care and detail. There are beautiful, sweeping shots of Karachi, showing the city in all its glory, in stark contrast to its much more grim depiction in Laal Kabootar. However, unlike Laal Kabootar, the city never feels alive. The camera work also isn’t consistent. When the story fumbles, which is often, the camera gets shaky.
And it’s all downhill from there.
Probably the most jarring issue I have with this film, is its horrendous pacing. In fact, there is no pacing. Project Ghazi is nothing more than a collection of heavily cliched action movie tropes, forced together in the hopes that it become a movie. We are constantly jumping from one scene to another, one boring character to the other, one irrelevant or unnecessary timestamp to the other. There is no transition between scenes, no clear path for the plot to follow and literally no time for the audience to take in the events that have just occurred. The only silver lining here is, the film is over in under 80 minutes.
This is also probably the worst editing I have ever scene. I guess that’s why the pacing suffers so much. Each scene is seemingly cut at random and forced together with a completely unrelated scene. At this point, Project Utter Bewilderment is a resounding success. While yes, you are left confused, as to just how you got here, it doesn’t make the plot hard to follow.
You can’t follow something that doesn’t exist.
I guess that’s why there’s no point in spoiling the plot. The premise had potential though, in spite of it being simplistic. However, each of the major plot points are so underdeveloped, so forgettable, you are never really able to connect the dots. That’s where the constant spoon-feeding in the exposition helps I guess. If we aren’t told that Sheheryar Munnawar’s Zain has super powers that are activated by extreme trauma, I don’t think we would have realised what the weird scowl on his face was.
Oh, that was him acting? Oh well, umm okay.
With prominent names like Humayun Saeed, Sheheryar Munawar, Syra Shahroz and Adnan Jaffar at the helm, it’s not unreasonable to expect decent performances. Project Ghazi however, makes it so. The three main leads are so incredibly stoic and wooden. None of them show any shred of emotion or humanity throughout the film, aside from a scream of anguish in what I’m assuming is meant to be a pivotal moment, plot wise. At least they do tell us what’s going on.
And then there’s Adnan Jaffar’s Qataan. It’s clear he’s trying to channel Heath Ledger and Tom Hardy to give us a deliciously unhinged villain. However, rather than alternating between psychotic and compelling, he sits between psychotic and more psychotic. There’s little in the portrayal to like. While he does deliver an occasional good line, he goes right back to forcing out scowls and dialogues. You can’t relate to Qataan but you never really hate him enough to be satisfied when his end comes. Oh and he does a lot of telling too. Literally, he tells you is entire life story at one point.
Forcefully Furious Overcompensation
From the moment the film begins, director Nadir Shah and writer Syed Mohmmand Ali Raza, make it a sport to spoon feed the audience. It’s classic overcompensation for the lack of plot or character development. They tell us what’s going on by having the characters say lines like ‘kutch galat horaha hai’ and ‘this thing is modified from next-gen tech’. I think every character, at some point or the other, has a long, overdrawn, monologue. Qataan for example, they tell us what his plan is by giving him the most exhausting monologue imaginable. What by far is the worst, is the fact that they believe they can force us how to feel as well.
They do this by employing some of the most, obnoxiously loud, jarring background music, in every scene. There’s a flashback so we have to have some sentimental violin sonatas. The hero is taking on goons so some loud, exciting crescendos are needed. The villain is about to meet is his end so we need to hear some tense, climactic pieces. That’s great and all, but I’d actually like to hear the characters speak as well. Not that the dialogues are any good, but please let me decide how I want to feel about any given scene, rather than you drowning everything out with melancholy violins.
Project Ghazi is a prime example of when lofty ambitions and poor execution coexist in perfect harmony. The ambitions lay the groundwork for Pakistani cinema to venture into, as yet, uncharted waters. The poor execution, in turn ensures that Pakistani cinema would be blasted out of those waters as well. You must have noticed, I have been trying to find silver linings throughout. There is one here, at the end, too. That silver lining is ambition. While yes, I admonished the poor execution, I can’t help but admire the ambition and hope it re-emerges with execution to match.
I mean, it rose from the ashes of its 2017 release fiasco.