Based in 1971, RAW - Romeo Akbar Walter is about Rehmat Ali aka Romeo, who is chosen by the RAW chief (Jackie Shroff) to be an Indian spy in Pakistan. Leaving his mother behind, Romeo takes the identity of Akbar Malik and migrates to Pakistan. The rest of the movie is about how Akbar helped India during the period that led to the 1971 war and his journey to becoming Walter.
Robbie Grewal, who is also an ad filmmaker, has some interesting films to his credit. After a teen romance and a comedy, Robbie helms this highly sensitive film with quit panache and authenticity. In the past we have seen many espionage thrillers, you could go with movies such as ‘Phantom’ and ‘Raazi’ but Romeo Akbar Walter is the most grounded one.
There is no machoism, heroism or even jingoism which makes RAW a unique experience. Though there are some heart-stopping moments, especially in the second half, RAW is more of a spy drama than a spy thriller. The writing is good. The screenplay is uneven. While I predicted most of it, but there were some twists which really caught me off guard.
This is one of the few movies that makes you feel patriotic by the end. I am not a fan of jingoism and chest thumping anyway. Because the proceedings in the film and the narrative is subtle, the background score plays an important part and is good throughout the film. The songs weren't required at all but Indian movies seem incomplete without a song.
John Abraham has performed well. Playing a spy, his eyes do the talking for the most part and I loved his dynamic with his mother played by ever-dependable Alka Amin. Jackie Shroff is at the top of his game. Not only he looks suave as RAW chief but has also delivered a solid performance. Mouni Roy in her second feature film gets a raw deal (you see what I did there). While she is good with what was given to her, what given to her wasn't really enough.
Sikandar Kher has done an exceptionally good act. It's actually when his character makes an entry, the movie picks up the pace but could have been better especially the accent which sounds more of a Haryanvi and less of a Pakistani.
Raghubir Yadav in his small but important role will make you feel for his character. He is brilliant, watch out for his scene with John where he tells him the ground reality. Anil George sleepwalks through his role, which seemed like an extension of what he played in URI: The Surgical Strike. It was good to see Shadab Khan on the big screen after ages.
Overall, Romeo Akbar Walter is another interesting film from John Abraham. The movie has enough twists and turns to keep you intrigued and engaged. Go for it.