KARACHI: It definitely takes more courage to just stand and listen, than to put your point across and make your presence felt. For an actor who has gone after the goons half of his career and made a buffoon out of himself in the other half, Rustom is quite a reinvention. For the first time Akshay Kumar dons a uniform and doesn’t kick anyone into the garbage cans.

Yet, he manages to come off as a plausible Navy officer, concerned about everything right and worried about everything wrong. Neeraj Pandey’s genius deserves as much credit as Akshay’s crew cut and muscular built that hold the uniform like skin.

It’s the 1950s, Commander Rustom Pavri happily announces to his ship crew that they will be docking at Bombay a week earlier than expected. Overjoyed by the announcement, the crew looks forward to their homecoming and so does Rustom. He gets flowers on his way home to surprise his wife Cynthia (Illeana D’cruz), only to find a maid at home. Shocked and surprised, he tries to call a few people but to no avail, she has not been home since the previous day, the housekeeper tells him. All his doubts come true when he reads a few letters exchanged between Cynthia and her lover Vikram. Next day, Cynthia walks into her house with make-up all over her face and tries to explain something to Rustom, who has downed a bottle of moonshine by now. Dejected by her admission, he heads of to Vikram’s house with a gun. Three shots are heard and Vikram’s dead.

Don’t worry; this scene unfolds within the first twenty minutes of the film, and the plot continues to thicken with time, giving you enough reasons to sit through the resolution.  Rustom is a signature Neeraj Pandey film – a story that stems from actual historic events is told like a suspense thriller and takes a prominent stance on morality. Like The Wednesday, he makes you question whether your world should revolve around the concept of right or wrong or just sense and nonsense.

The film may not be flooded with memorable monologues like “We are resilient by force, not by choice” but it truly eclipses all of Pandey’s previous works in visual detailing. The aerial shots, low-key lighting, smoke, rain and the ravishing ladies together create an atmosphere that holds  on its own while adding to the mystery.

This is a clear lesson in how you treat the stylistic elements of a Noir film. Of late, we have seen enough of femme fatales distracting cynical detectives in Bollywood but haven’t experienced it all culminate in an alternate, dramatic reality. Although we are yet to conclude whether Noir is a style or genre, Rustom does justice to the connotations associated with the name. Anurag Kashyap must be taking down notes after the Bombay Velvet fiasco.

Aside from its visual brilliance, credit must be given for casting the rarest combination of actors. Illeana looks gorgeous in the sarees and the hats, yet the uncertainty in her expressions manages to shine through all the glamour. Esha Gupta, on the other hand, gets to play a meaty role for the first time in her life and proves the bombshell archetype wrong. No doubt, she looks stunning but she has also proven that she is more than just a decoration piece. Perhaps certain images stay with leading ladies who debut alongside Emraan Hashmi. Nonetheless, the film is supported by a great cast and their command on diction, coupled with steadiness in dialogue delivery is one thing to watch out for. Despite a slight drag in the end, Rustom has to be your weekend watch!