As an actor, Sidharth Malhotra’s thermostat is usually set to mildly warm, whatever the weather. Yodha sees Malhotra turning up the heat as an action hero.

The 133-minute movie evokes Hollywood terrorism-themed thrillers that have casually cool leading men, country-in-peril hijinks and pulsating action. Directors Sagar Ambre and Pushkar Ojha play up Malhotra’s physical agility, keep the emoting to the minimum, and keep the mood lightweight at all times.

Arun (Malhotra) is a member of the Navy SEALs-like Yodha commando unit. Arun’s tendency to take huge risks during military operations lands him in big trouble, from which even his high-ranking bureaucrat wife Priyamvada (Raashii Khanna) can’t extract him.

Redemption comes in the form of a hijack on a plane that’s in the skies just as a crucial India-Pakistan peace summit is unfolding on the ground. Air hostess Laila (Disha Patani) and novice pilot Tanya (Kritika Bharadwaj) are among the fliers whom Arun leans on for assistance. But it’s unclear whether the aerial kerfuffle is actually a hijack, and whether Arun’s actions are entirely honourable.

A vanilla plot is served with layers of cheesiness and a dash of pop patriotism (Kashmir! Where would the movies be without you?) But Sagar Ombre’s script has a few twists in store. A surfeit of superbly choreographed hand-to-hand combat, copious discharging of weapons and breathless moments suitably distract from the mismatch between imminent threats and the slow response time of characters.

The slick production (the plane set pieces are particularly impressive) makes Malhotra work the hardest – which he does, and without appearing to. Malhotra’s Arun is so self-contained that only Kritika Bharadwaj makes an impression.

Raashii Khanna is hard-pressed to keep up. The cast includes Tanuj Virwani as Arun’s former Army buddy Khan, who flaps about uselessly in a control room while Arun fights his way through deception and high drama up in the air.

Yodha (2024).