Yes, we’ve come to that time of the year when we bang our heads about what does and doesn’t qualify as a Christmas movie. Of course there are the traditional Christmas movies that are set in and around the holiday season like Elf, The Polar Express, Home Alone, It’s a Wonderful Life, The Nightmare Before Christmas, A Christmas Story, A Christmas Carol, and Jingle All the Way. Then there will be those unconventional Christmas movies that are set in and around the holiday season but stretches the themes of Christmas, turns it into those threads in a chewing gum, and yet re-establishes them by the end (and sometimes they don’t and still make the cut). Those include Eyes Wide Shut, Silent Night, Deadly Night, Trading Places, Krampus, Carol, Gremlins, The Night Before, Batman Returns, Shazam and most of the Harry Potter films. But the most hotly debated out of them all is Die Hard. So, am I going to talk about Die Hard now? No, everyone else is going to do that. What I am going to talk about is War.
That brings up the question that why the f*ck am I talking about War on Christmas? Well, with the advent of December when the spirit of the holiday season started to make its way into my psyche, the ghosts of all the discussions about what makes a Christmas movie started to fill up my brain. And I noticed that most, wait scratch that, all of them were Hollywood movies, with Die Hard sitting there right at the top of the Nakatomi Plaza-sized list.
Sadly, there wasn’t a single Indian movie even around there. Like, not even a short film. Yes, there are Christmas releases by Salman Khan, Shah Rukh Khan, Aamir Khan, Akshay Kumar etc. because of monetary reasons. But a movie that celebrates Christmas or emulates the tropes synonymous with the birthday of Christ? Nope. If you take a trip through cyberspace, you’ll probably come across someone cheering for Anjaana Anjaani and/or Ek Main Aur Ekk Tuu so that they can take a slot because they happen around Christmas. That said, in my opinion, War is one such Indian movie that can qualify for this category just like Die Hard did. Hear me out.
One of the major throughlines in every Christmas movie is that it has to re-establish one’s power of belief, both on and off screen, and both Die Hard and War does it in various ways. Die Hard came out during a time when Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone’s movies were all the rage. Producers believed if the protagonist wasn’t muscled, oiled, invincible and oozing hyper-masculinity, they cannot lead an action movie. That’s when Bruce Willis’ balding, insecure, vulnerable and yet courageous John McClane came in and saved Nakatomi Plaza and his marriage, thereby paving the way for more humane heroes e.g. John Wick.
Coming back to India, for as long as I can remember, nobody believed that large Bollywood blockbusters with a half-decent storyline can be watchable. I am sure producers and hard-core fans believed it because they were making and hyping them up, respectively, leading to movies like Force, Dishoom, Ek Tha Tiger, Simmba, Rowdy Rathore, Commando, Dhoom 3, Kick etc. But War came along and made me believe (me, out of all the non-believers in the world) that Bollywood filmmakers can script and direct action movies that are capable of entertaining people and featuring a ton of crisp CGI work.
Now, although Die Hard subverted the biggest blockbuster trope of all time, it didn’t stop being ludicrous. Because everyone knows that, realistically speaking, one man cannot survive an entire army of terrorists. He is going to die multiple times. But the reason why people keep rewatching the adventures of John McClane is because he is the literal embodiment of the Christmas miracle. Because what McClane does in a span of a few hours is nothing short of a miracle that takes place on Christmas Eve (I mean the man literally swings out of a multi-storeyed building with the help of the pipe of a fire hydrant and then crashes into that building by cracking it open with his bare, bloody feet just before the other end of the hydrant plummets to the ground).
Cutting back to War, Siddharth Anand makes us believe with the sheer coolness exuded by Hrithik Roshan and the same level of ludicrousness exhibited in Die Hard, that two rogue agents can begin as frenemies on Christmas Eve, attend a wedding in Kerala on Christmas Day, fist fight each other atop a ship, chase each other through a wintery landscape on supercars, have another fist fight and avert nuclear warfare, thereby saving the world. Again, it’s never ever going to happen. However, a movie like War (which BTW defies the very fabric of Bollywood blockbusters by featuring just two songs) urges us to believe that such a miracle can happen on Christmas while we are busy having plum cake and singing ‘Jingle all the way’.
That said the biggest feat achieved by War (and this has nothing to do with Die Hard) is making me believe that Tiger Shroff can act. I hope nobody takes it the wrong way but I have watched almost every single one of Shroff’s movies on the big screen (#truestory) with hope in my eyes that one day his acting skills is going to mirror is acrobatic abilities. But it never happened until the movie’s third act when Shroff went ape-shit, cackling like a man deranged beyond recognition and bloodlust coursing through his veins. I swear (and I am not saying this with no level of sarcasm) that when that happened, my jaw figuratively touched the floor and came back. It was truly surprising to watch and filled me with tons of positivity (something that Christmas is all about) about the actor’s future. This feat actually also doubles as a Christmas miracle because the act during which Shroff displays his acting skills takes place on Christmas (it’s evident by the lack of wardrobe change).
Finally, at the end of the day, in my opinion, War is one of the best movies to watch on your day off on the 25th of Dec because it’ll liven your spirits with its action set-pieces, ridiculously handsome leads, foot-tapping songs, and a mind-blowing third act set on Christmas day. The only thing thing that can make that better is turning it into a Die Hard and War double feature.
Cover artwork by Dhawal Bhanushali/Mashable India