Might contain spoilers.
A good film overall. It’s unnecessarily long and a little lacking in confidence. There are too many meandering digressions and a surplus of slow motion. There was a taut, tense, thrilling, and stirring 1½-hour film in there somewhere.
Amitabh Bachchan renders Vijay especially interesting with an atypically subdued performance that prominently displays all the character’s uncertainty. My favourite overall character, though, was the shopkeeper whom one of the players goes to with her father to get her identification papers. The depiction of the winding bureaucracy is authentic and the father himself is quite funny, too, once he stops opposing his daughter and progresses to complaining incessantly. I also like the guard who asks to be part of the team.
The highlight is certainly the big game against Vijay’s college. My attention was wandering until then, but the solid execution of that sequence drew me in, even though the football itself seems unremarkable and equally plagued by gratuitous slow motion. I particularly liked the other coach’s reactions and his helpful reminders to the goalkeeper to not allow their opponents to score.
The subplot with Ankush’s empty love interest is both unrealistic and nauseating. He begins the film by overtly harassing her. She sees him play, starts messaging him for no reason, and inexplicably falls in love with him. Indeed, none of the stealing, fighting, or sexual harassment is acceptable. On the other hand, the film makes its point clear: these are victims of circumstance and history, and they’re hungry for an opportunity to break the cycle.
A couple of strange notes were what looks like footage from Microsoft Flight Simulator at the end, and what might not have been but certainly looked like Vijay watching the kids play under computer-generated rain. I’m also unable to understand why he vociferously opposes his son accepting financial help. In fact, their story seems to be missing a middle: the son hates him until he suddenly attends a game, omitting any sort of transition or justification (through no fault of Arjun Radhakrishnan).