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London Confidential review: Impressive espionage thriller that relies more on spycraft than generic action scenes

Release Date: 18 Sep 2020 / 01hr 17min

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Suyog Zore

The film, featuring Mouni Roy, Kulraj Randhawa and Purab Kohli, sees RAW agents in London scramble to uncover a mole in their midst.

Hindi cinema's numerous takes on the espionage thriller genre have been fairly typical. From Salman Khan's one-man show in the Ek Tha Tiger franchise to Neeraj Pandey's Baby (2015) and Special Ops (2020), the genre has come to be synonymous with the action thriller, rarely highlighting actual spycraft.

Zee5's original film London Confidential is a pleasant departure. The film, starring Mouni Roy, Kulraj Randhawa and Purab Kohli, depicts actual spy work in a plausible manner. Certain cinematic liberties have, naturally, been taken, but, all in all, one can confidently say that London Confidential is among the rare realistic espionage thrillers produced in India.

The film kicks off with the abduction of RAW agent Biren Ghosh (Diljohn Singh) by the Chinese secret service. A Chinese source had revealed to Ghosh a conspiracy to let loose a deadly new virus in India, but before he can reveal his source to fellow agents Uma (Roy) and Arjun (Kohli), he vanishes. Now, Uma and Arjun not only have to find Ghosh's source before the Chinese do, but to also uncover the mole in their agency who tipped off the Chinese about Ghosh's real identity.

This smartly written thriller by Akshay Singh and Prateek Payodhi is based on a story by journalist and author S Hussain Zaidi, many of whose books have been adapted for the big screen, Black Friday (2007), Phantom (2015) and Class Of 83 (2020) being notable mentions.

London Confidential marks Zaidi's debut as the creator of a film. The writers are aware of the budget limitation and use it to their advantage to craft a neat screenplay that eschews high-octane action.

Uma and Arjun's ostensibly nondescript characters are also well written. The cover identity of Uma, who is pregnant, is that of an Indian embassy employee while Arjun is a sales manager in a mall. Another important character, played by Randhawa, is Uma's boss at the embassy. The film doesn't burden its running time with the back stories of these agents and there are no subplots. 

Apart from the screenplay, Kanwal Sethi's meticulous direction is another strength. Sethi, with the help of cinematographer Ewan Mulligan, has laid out elaborate scenes that are innovative yet non-confusing. There is no fancy camerawork and even the brief hand-to-hand combat scenes are grounded and, refreshingly, not sped up in post-production, making them memorable despite their short length.

Generally, when Indian films are shot in Europe, their makers opt for a colourful palette. This thriller's uncharacteristic desaturated colours aid in building the ominous mood this undertaking requires. Parikshit Jha's slick editing makes it impossible to avert your gaze from the screen for a split second.

On the negative side, the film's short length has restricted the writers from creating well-rounded characters with emotional depth. Because of this, as a viewer, you fail to connect emotionally with them, which means when the stakes are high and their lives are in danger you aren't exactly squirming at the edge of your seat.

Roy, who has the most screentime, does a fine job as an agent who also has an emotional side. Kohli's character is more meticulous and methodical, and the actor essays the role decently. Frankly, the film doesn't demand their best, but both artistes and the supporting cast have done justice to their roles.

London Confidential deserves a watch for its fresh approach to a genre that had become ossified by tired cliches and over-the-top action.

Zee5 is now streaming London Confidential.

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