Special Ops: Web Series Review
Director: Shivam Nair, Neeraj Pandey.
Genre: Suspense, Action, Drama.
Release Date: 17th March 2020.
“Neeraj Pandey, the master of Indian espionage thriller, makes his digital debut with Hotstar’s latest web series Special Ops. Does it hit the mark? Find out.”
An internal audit team is set up to investigate Himmat Singh, Senior Analyst & Logistics Head at R&AW, for spending a huge amount of secret service funds on some “miscellaneous” activities. Himmat starts to explain the 19-year long mission he has been conducting for catching Ikhlaq Khan, the mastermind behind the failed 2001 Parliament attack- which started it all- a man nobody apart from him, and his team of trusted agents, believes to exist. But his protégé, Farooq, is as close as he ever was to nabbing Ikhlaq. Will they be able to find this elusive terrorist mastermind as he once again seems to plan an attack on India?
Created by Neeraj Pandey, Special Ops is a non-linear tale that is weaved between past and present, traipsing across Asia. Despite its vacillating nature, it manages to keep viewers in sync with the events and characters, aware of what’s happening with whom and when. This jumping between two timelines is done through Himmat’s (Kay Kay Menon) storytelling, as he recounts the events to the investigating officers starting from 2001. There’s an effective repetitive pattern Neeraj uses here, which cements the difference between time without making the repetitiveness seem redundant or dull.
Despite the ensemble cast, three characters steal the show and demand your attention the most. First and foremost, Kay Kay Menon portrays the brevity-personified Himmat Singh with all his mannerisms to the T. A smart man with a keen eye, penchant for dry humor, and a soft heart, Himmat is ruthless and merciful, kind and mean, considerate and callous, all at the same time. Karan Tacker’s Farooq steals your heart with an easy charm that hides a sharp intellect, fooling anyone to do his bid. Karan balances the fine line his character walks of being cunning and charismatic. Then there’s Sajjad Delafrooz who plays Hafiz, the powerful tycoon with strings to terrorists and bigwigs. Sajjad translates the silent aura of menace, power and mystery Hafiz has on screen naturally.
A high budget production, Special Ops is visually appealing as it portrays each city it dives into with finesse and grandeur. The long opening action sequence of the attack grips you and establishes a strong point for watching the series further. Cinematically, Special Ops is as good as it can get, each shot keeping up with both the low and high octane tone of the series.
The thrill factor of the story is kept alive throughout the series with action sequences and near-miss situations, and when the final blow arrives it does hit you, despite its slight predictability.
Despite having everything right, Special Ops loses itself in its opulence- both in storytelling and execution. The plot of the series is simple- a special service agent has been looking for an elusive terrorist for 20 years. Add to it the Neeraj Pandey effect of complexity, which introduces 5 special agents and an enquiry for the spending of said agents, which basically means subplots. Now this technique has worked for Pandey before- A Wednesday, Special 26– but in this case, it spectacularly fails. The subplots and characters introduced add no value to the story- you anticipate for it mean something and when it doesn’t, disappointment follows.
The entire arc of portraying Himmat’s personal life makes no sense. The writers (Neeraj Pandey, Deepak Kingrani, Benazir Ali Fida) seem as if they wanted to give the character a human/family angle, but Himmat or the story doesn’t need it. His obsession with his daughter’s safety just works as a distraction from the thrilling ride that Special Ops could have been.
The series also introduces characters out of the blue for its own convenience, and their establishment is as hasty and vague as their arrival. It also presents scenarios and threads only to leave them hanging open as loose ends.
The extreme slow motions come off forced and ruin the viewing experience. Certain shots are also incorporated between scenes where they were totally unnecessary, and could have done without. These glitches affect the seamless viewing of the series.
Special Ops delivers on its promise of being the grand action thriller, but that same quality also ends up becoming its downside.
Special Ops marks both the directors’- Neeraj Pandey and Shivam Nair- debut on digital.
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