Saif Ali Khan's AGENT VINOD is more Nick Carter in its approach than James Bond. Sriram Raghavan who showed glimpses of his brilliance in JOHNNY GADDAR has clearly managed to merge the two secret service agents. The cocktail is dynamite! There's the flamboyance of a James Bond in Agent Vinod and the careless fearlessness of a Nick Carter in his gait. And to Saif's credit he comes up trumps portraying his character of a Secret Service Agent on a mission to save his country. Suave and sexy would best describe how he carries his character. Flawless would define his performance.
In an espionage thriller you have to be glued to the screen to catch the goings-on. And in Agent Vinod the trail moves from Uzbekistan, to Morocco, to Pakistan, to South Africa, to India, to London... All in search of fixing the link on a nuclear terror attack planned on India. It's a cat and mouse game involving sophisticated gadgets, undercover terrorists and a few who claim to be on your side. But are they really? Agent Vinod has to trust his gut instinct on which he has to believe.
The first session consist of set-pieces that are brilliantly executed. It's on par with any Hollywood James Bond thriller. The action is slick and execution of the set-pieces impeccable. There's method in the madness that explodes on the screen and it explains why Agent Vinod likes to 'hang in there' between life and death. His is a craftily etched character that infiltrates any situation, no matter how high-end the security. He wanted to be a painter, but as a 15-year-old school boy he found himself dangling on a cable, trying to save his friends while on a school trip. Those eight minutes spent 'between life and death' defined the path he would take later in life.
The background score and editing is slick (at most times) but some scenes, especially towards the end jar out loud.
The rest of the cast, especially the terror men are used with the right dose of intent by Raghavan, to bump them off logically. But these guys do make an impact. There’s Ram Kapoor who makes a dynamite entry and equally volatile exit as Abu Nazir who controls the drugs and prostitution racket in Russia. Gulshan Grover (Tehmur Pasha) seeking shelter in Pakistan, Prem Chopra (Kazan) in Morocco, Shahbaz Khan (Huzefa Lokha) and Adil Hussain (Colonel) are all positioned cleverly in the plot.
The premise of the plot when revealed in the end may appear frail to some. Viewed in totality, it is a smart move. One that most will find logic to.
There are a few negatives. When Kareena Kapoor is shot at towards the end, you see bits of sponge flying rather than blood spilling out of her tummy. This is a huge technical blow. The speaking of Hindi in Russia and breaking into a song is acceptable.
Another crucial factor that may go against the film is the length. Sriram has clearly gone 15 minutes overboard. The song in Pakistan could have been done away with and the drama of a girl in a gunny bag (in the opening scene) could have been chopped off too. For a thriller, one has to know when not to go overboard in narration.
All in all it is a Saif Ali Khan film. A male hero finally surfaces to give Vidya Balan, the current real hero, a run for her money.