We’re all excited for Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One, right? One of the most consistent franchises in Hollywood returns in for its seventh installment, promising globetrotting thrills and death-defying Tom Cruise stunts once again. The movie’s biggest problem: It comes out in July, a whole four months from now.
But what if I told you there is a new movie out that would scratch many of those same itches? And you can watch it right now at home.
Pathaan, the highest-grossing Indian movie at the box office in 2023 and the fifth-highest of all time, just arrived on Prime Video this week. The fourth installment in the (loosely connected) YRF Spy Universe series, and the second directed by Siddharth Anand after 2019’s exciting War with Tiger Shroff and Hrithik Roshan, Pathaan is a globetrotting spy thriller highly influenced by turn-of-the-century espionage blockbusters like Mission: Impossible 2 and Die Another Day.
In Pathaan, two former secret agents abandoned by their country respond in opposite ways: protagonist Pathaan (Shah Rukh Khan) with unwavering loyalty, and antagonist Jim (John Abraham) with anger and revenge. The plot is pretty perfunctory, as far as spy things go — there’s a complicated scheme with a virus and plenty of betrayals and double (or triple) agents — but it’s all dressing for gorgeous, globetrotting spy thrills with some very beautiful people.
Pathaan has everything you could possibly want from a globetrotting international spy thriller: car chases, explosions, helicopters, hot people in a litany of amazing outfits, big stunts, rippling muscles, fights on top of moving vehicles, romance, song-and-dance numbers, motorcycle chases, an impenetrable vault, exotic locations, a fight on a train, sunny beaches, snowy mountains, and explosive set piece after explosive set piece. As Pathaan and Rubai (Deepika Padukone), a Pakistani agent, embark on their mission to stop Jim’s scheme, Anand gives them the flair that only spy movies can, complete with jaw-droppingly gorgeous outfits and stylish set pieces that make the most of their bodies in motion.
The big selling point for Pathaan isn’t the continuation of the franchise, but the return of global mega star Shah Rukh Khan (Om Shanti Om, Kabhi Haan Kabhi Naa). At one time the biggest movie star of the world (and still certainly one of the most popular), SRK returns after a brief hiatus from starring roles, and still absolutely brings it at 57.
The movie knows this from his introduction, tied up in a chair as a prisoner. When he breaks free, wind gusts (indoors) to show off his rippling torso and gorgeous hair, before an awesome fight that showcases exciting hand-to-hand combat with beautiful kicks, fun gunplay with inventive camera placement, and audacious stunts. At times, it feels like a sequence out of the game Superhot, as Pathaan uses everything at his disposal (including kicking discarded mags at people) to break free in a sequence that uses slow-motion and speed ramping in fun ways.
As Pathaan, Shah Rukh Khan is his usual easygoing, affable, and even shy self in romance scenes (and his many, many outfits are absolutely impeccable), but can stand toe-to-toe with the much bigger and younger Abraham in action sequences. Abraham’s deep voice and chiseled jaw (at certain angles, he literally looks like the Chad meme) with SRK’s charm makes them a dynamic duo.
The action beats are one of the major highlights of the Pathaan experience. There’s a phenomenal fight on a train (that timeless action movie staple), a tense motorcycle chase in the snow, and a jaw-dropping final showdown that… Let’s just say it would make Icarus proud.
Like many big-budget spy thrillers, there is an undercurrent of jingoism (especially with regard to the relationship between India and Pakistan) that you’ll have to deal with when watching Pathaan (this is one of the things that makes the work of John Le Carré and the Bourne movies so special within the genre). And there are a few instances of a patronizing (at best) attitude to other nations and peoples. The plot also deals heavily with a specific article of the Indian constitution, so viewers less familiar with the political history of the Kashmir region may feel a bit lost at times. Your mileage may vary!
But if you’re looking for something to hit those big-budget spy notes before the new Mission: Impossible comes out, you could do a whole lot worse than Pathaan. Explosive set pieces and undeniable star power? It doesn’t get much better than that in blockbuster spy movies.
Pathaan is available to watch on Prime Video.