Omerta – Movie Review
Genre: Action / Biography/ Crime
Starring: Rajkummar Rao, Rajesh Tailang, Blake Allan
Story: A recounting of the story of infamous British-born terrorist Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh, who kidnapped and murdered Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl in 2002.
Director: Hansal Mehta
Writers: Mukul Dev (story), Hansal Mehta
Review by RajeevMasand on News 18
Rajkummar Rao Plays a Sociopath With an Iciness That Will Stay With You
In his new film Omerta, director Hansal Mehta seeks to dive into the mind of a cold-blooded terrorist, the real-life Omar Saeed Sheikh, played superbly by Rajkummar Rao. As the story unravels, we see how a highly-educated, British-bred Pakistani gets radicalized into becoming an icy murderous agent, currently serving life imprisonment in a Karachi prison for the killing of American journalist Daniel Pearl in 2002.
Omar, who was accused of having connections with Osama bin Laden and the 9/11 bombings, was one of three men released after the Indian Airlines Kandahar hijacking by the Taliban in 1999. Mehta, as you can see, has a fascinating subject at hand – a young man who becomes such an Islamic fundamentalist that he drops out of the London School of Economics and leaves his comfortable home in England to train in a terror camp in Afghanistan where he is shaped into a diabolical terrorist.
It’s expected of Rajkummar to sink his teeth into and slip under the skin of any character, and he does that with this deliciously meaty role. The inconsistent accent notwithstanding, the actor plays a sociopath with an iciness that will stay with you.
Review by Saibal Chatterjee on NDTV Movies
Rating – 3.5/5
Rajkummar Rao Gives Pitch Perfect Performance In This Riveting Thriller
A riveting, if not nail-biting, character-driven thriller, Hansal Mehta’s Omerta does not bank upon the established devices of the genre. It employs a judicious, subtle blend of real-life events and dashes of dramatic licence to probe the radicalization of a young Pakistani-origin British national.
The Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh story – the abduction of Western tourists in India in late 1994, his arrest and imprisonment in Delhi, his release in exchange for the IC-814 hostages in 1999, the kidnap and killing of American Jewish journalist Daniel Pearl in 2002 and his trial and conviction in Pakistan, where he is still in prison awaiting judicial review – is in the public domain. So the Omerta plot does not deliver big surprises. It presents, in a detached, deadpan, docu-drama style, the circumstances in which the dreaded terrorist executed his plans.
In recounting a widely documented tale, the screenplay hits the right thriller buttons. When violence is perpetrated indiscriminately and without any moral context created with the aid of a detailed back story, it can only be deeply disconcerting. Omerta is just that and therein lies its success.
Video Review on NDTV
Video Review By Rajiv Masand
Review by Anna MM Vetticad on Firstpost
Rating – 3.5/5
Rajkummar Rao’s stellar performance carries Hansal Mehta’s gripping, clinical terrorography
From the commonplace emerges the terrifying, from the unexceptional comes horrifying evil in Hansal Mehta’s unusual biography of the dreaded terrorist Omar Sheikh. As biopics go, this one chucks all templates out of the window: Sheikh’s childhood is given a complete go-by, as are a backstory and conventional ‘explanations’ for his murderous actions in the years of his life brought to us in Omerta.
What we get instead is a clinical, factual, dispassionate account of his role in the 1994 abduction of Western tourists in India, his release from an Indian prison in exchange for hostages in the hijacked Indian Airlines Flight IC 814 held in Kandahar, his involvement in the 9/11 attacks and the 2002 beheading of Wall Street Journal correspondent Daniel Pearl for which he was convicted and sentenced to death by a Pakistani court. Sixteen years later, he is still in a prison in Pakistan. (Note: Although Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh – a British terrorist of Pakistani descent – was convicted for Pearl’s murder, doubts have been raised in certain quarters about whether he actually killed the American with his own hands. Omertaunequivocally accepts that he did.)
Omerta’s pace is so unrelenting and Rao’s acting so immersive that it is impossible to turn away from the screen for a single moment.
Review by Shalini Langer on Indian Express
Rating – 2.5/5
A surprisingly passion-less biopic of Omar Saeed Sheikh
Mehta puts the ‘K’ word out there and, despite the watchful Censors, much is said in the film on the Indian government’s treatment of Kashmir — albeit by men in dark rooms, anger in their hearts and guns in their hands. Omerta goes so far as to refer to “atrocities by Hindus”, have a Kashmiri man amidst the terrorists in Karachi and depict some bloodied bodies left by State hands in the Valley.
In the charged new world we live in, the words ring loudly and, importantly, unapologetically.
Rao tries his best, but the strain of being the only person who matters in the film, with an English accent that slips, soars, slides, strains and, sometimes, simply gives up, doesn’t help.
As for the rest of the film, it won’t ruffle any feathers, except of Hansal Mehta fans looking for another Shahid, for exploration of radicalism as a product of chance and circumstance. Working without his usual scriptwriter Apurva Asrani — the embers of that falling-out are still glowing — Mehta says he got the idea of making a film on the infamous British-Pakistani terrorist Omar Saeed Sheikh from model-actor Mukul Dev. The latter is credited with ‘story’.
Click here to read the complete review on Indian Express.
Review by Sweta Kaushal on Hindustan Times
Rating – 3.5/5
Rajkummar Rao’s film focuses on the terrorist’s modus operandi, not his ideology
Hansal Mehta’s Omerta is not about the Italian mafia, or any code of silence. Its name, perhaps, is a play on the name of its central character, British terrorist of Pakistani origin Omar Saeed Shaikh. He is not the hero, he can never be. One of the most dreaded terrorists whose name is inextricably linked to IC-814 hijacking and the murder of journalist Daniel Pearl, he is no hero. He remains, however, Omerta’s lone focus with every other shot capturing him. With the film, director Hansal Mehta attempts to peek inside the mind of a terrorist, a murderer, without humanising him, with Rajkummar Rao bravely playing a man who continues to be linked to multiple crimes against humanity.
Mehta follows his subject as he begins his career of crime. A scene right in the beginning establishes Omar’s cruel mind and a pitiless heart. With censors deeming the scene too grotesque for Indian audience, what we see is a black screen and urgent, helpless cries.
From there on, Omerta moves back and forth in time, giving us glimpses of Omar’s training in Pakistan and Afghanistan, his first meeting with an ISI officer, a top Al qaida leader, apart from his time in Tihar jail in India. The movie delves into some of his crimes and just touches upon others — the failed kidnapping of tourists in Kashmir, his involvement in 9/11, the the Taj terror attack and journalist Daniel Pearl’s murder.
Review by Namrata Joshi on The Hindu
This documentary-like recreation of the life of a terrorist merely skims the surface
Hansal Mehta’s Omerta is the flip side of his own Shahid. Both the biographical films are about young Muslim men undergoing life-altering experiences in the contemporary conflicted and brutal world. However, while Shahid decides to fight for justice in the face of the many injustices heaped on him, his polar opposite, Omar, takes to violence.
Mehta fashions a taut and terse tale about the British-Pakistani terrorist Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh, from the point where he kidnaps four Western tourists in India in 1994 to murdering the Wall Street Journaljournalist Daniel Pearl in 2002, right up until bringing India and Pakistan to the brink of war post 26/11. The documentary-like feel gets enhanced by the use of actual news footage to make it all seem hyper real. Then there is Rajkummar Rao to make it effective with his dour and deadpan turn as Omar, even though his British accent does get a tad overbearing.
Review by Nandini Ramnath on Scroll.in
A damp squib about deadly terrorist Omar Saeed Sheikh
Despite the title, Hansal Mehta’s Omerta isn’t about the Italian mafia. The 96-minute biopic isn’t about the mafia’s vow of silence either, since every plot turn in its plot is simplified and explained in painful detail.
The title is supposed to be a play of words on the name of its main character. British-Pakistani terrorist Omar Saeed Sheikh abandoned a degree at the London School of Economics in the 1990s to answer the call of jihad. He is inextricably linked to one of India’s most humiliating moments in its long-running battle with terrorism. In 1999, Sheikh was freed along with Harkat-ul-Mujahideen chief Masood Azhar and Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front member Mushtaq Ahmed Zargar in return for the passengers on the Indian Airlines 1C-814 aircraft that had been hijacked in Kathmandu and flown to Kandahar. Sheikh had been jailed for having kidnapped British and American tourists in Delhi in 1994. After he was freed in 1999, he settled in Pakistan, where he is said to have played a role in the operation to abduct and murder Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl in 2002.
Review by Sreehari Nair on Rediff
A lean, brutal masterpiece
The film, despite setting up camp in the world of Omar Saeed, isn’t looking to expiate his sins or raise him to the level of a martyr. It takes us awfully close to Omar and to those around him so that their every act of terror feels like a way of life.
We watch the terrorists eating their meals and we watch them ragging one another; we watch how they complete the lines of qawwali singers and how they treat their women (as in Old Italian Mafia classics, the women hardly have any presence here, let alone a voice).
And after we watch these men commit horrific acts with religious cool, Hansal Mehta, like a true artist, sidesteps all modern clichés of drama.
Review by Suhani Singh on India Today.
Hansal Mehta’s portrait of terrorist Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh is dull.
ansal Mehta’s earlier and acclaimed films, Shahid and Aligarh, were detailed and sensitive character studies of men who society shunned. His latest, Omerta, a biographical crime drama on British-Pakistani terrorist Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh is a simplistic and uninspired take on an antagonist.
Mehta’s go-to collaborator Rajkummar Rao steps in to play the man with zero redeeming qualities. He grows a beard and dons a flimsy English accent and a smile to smooth-talk and trap foreigners but the otherwise adept actor can do only so much with what’s a sketchy part.
Mehta, also the film’s writer, goes about Omar’s long list of crimes with the precise drabness of a Wikipedia page editor.