Film reviews from 2023

The year of Barbenheimer.

Akhil Arora’s movie reviews from 2023 naturally covered the biggest event of the year.

Adarsh Gourav, Siddhant Chaturvedi, and Ananya Panday in Kho Gaye Hum Kahan

Kho Gaye Hum Kahan

“That line of dialogue hits at what the new Netflix movie is about: the ennui of the digital age. Essentially, it wants to depict the cause and effects of generational malaise that began in millennials and is more acute with Gen Z, who were born into an always-online world. So much of our life today happens on social media. Or, rather, how it appears on social media.”

Agastya Nanda as Archie Andrews in The Archies

The Archies

“[Sugary] and fluffy, just like cotton candy. Sure, it has a few bones to pick and some topics to tackle, but it has little interest in scratching below the surface. No wonder then that it loves pivoting to songs—there are 11 (!!) of them … [it’s] maddening. Worse, it’s only a ‘musical’ in the sense that it features singing and dancing, as it communicates very little through those songs.”

Brie Larson as Captain Marvel in The Marvels

The Marvels

“[Feels] like it’s actively avoiding most responsibilities. Despite its galactic scale and life-threatening scope, The Marvels operates as a lightweight, small cosmic adventure that can’t help but feel like a stepping stone to nothing. Sure, there’s spurts of enjoyable banter between this new trio … but there’s alarmingly little dramatic material to make it a substantial film.”

Tabu in Khufiya


“[Its] unforgivable crime is that it’s a slog to sit through. The chief component of a thriller movie is that it needs to be engaging on a minute-by-minute level. [Vishall] Bhardwaj seems to have no idea how to sustain that—and he repeatedly undercuts himself. […] In addition to scene construction, Khufiya is a mess on virtually every front, be it dialogue, narrative intrigue, or even acting.”

Kareena Kapoor Khan in Jaane Jaan

Jaane Jaan

“I can’t help but feel that there’s a better movie hiding underneath, a darker, shifty and more sinister one. Even as I was watching it, I kept wondering about the energy a filmmaker like Bong Joon-ho (Memories of Murder) or Park Chan-wook (Decision to Leave) would’ve brought to this. There are shades of both parenthetical films, especially the latter, as the detective falls for the female suspect but Jaane Jaan doesn’t fully commit to it.”

Shah Rukh Khan as Azad Rathore in Jawan


“A series of PSAs that are increasingly in your face, to the point that the last one is literally delivered to your face, with [Shah Rukh] Khan breaking the fourth wall and addressing the audience. [… It] coasts on the movie-star charm of and the audience’s affection for Khan, but that can only take you so far. Thrust into an action thriller package—it’s more of an action comedy, to be honest—the world of Jawan operates with zero cohesion or internal logic.”

Gal Gadot as Rachel Stone in Heart of Stone

Heart of Stone

“[Its] set pieces don’t have the same intrigue as those in a Mission: Impossible chapter, and beat-by-beat, it doesn’t have the same crackling energy. Some of that is down to the ever-present augmented reality overlays. […] It’s fine to have this at the start, so audiences are aware of what’s going on, but it makes no sense to keep showing it. All the AR overlays make Heart of Stone look like a video game. Except you’re not playing—you’re merely watching.”

Margot Robbie in and as Barbie


“[Too] literal in places. It spells out everything. […] Instead of alluding to it, approaching it in a layered fashion, or navigating it with a deft hand, Barbie always opts for the wrecking-ball-through-the-wall route. […] Yet, you can’t deny that Barbie is also constantly funny. Packed full of zingers and situational humour, it sketches out the idiotic, the ironic, and the idiosyncratic, driven by the talents of its two leading stars.”

Cillian Murphy as J. Robert Oppenheimer in Oppenheimer


“On the surface, it’s about a man who helped alter the shape of the world. But it’s also about our world today (naturally). A world where patriots are discarded, put in jails, and labelled “anti-nationals”. And those who solely work for their own profit brand themselves as saviours while spreading hate and division. Oppenheimer is a character study that purports itself as a thriller for the majority of its runtime, only to gradually usher you into an entirely different movie.”

Tom Cruise as Ethan Hunt in Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One

Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning

“I had huge expectations from Dead Reckoning—and I was completely engaged […] The new Mission: Impossible film is expectedly full of action and thoroughly enjoyable. At the same time, it’s hilarious and emotional, showcasing both wit and a willingness to push itself into dark corners. More importantly, unlike the first parts of Dune and Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse, it’s not an incomplete movie.”

Ezra Miller as Barry Allen / The Flash in The Flash

The Flash

“[A] witty and inventive buddy comedy that finds a way to honour DC’s past and even-older past. And it is at its best when it’s centred on characters and their interplay, rather than the necessary shenanigans of making a $200 million superhero movie. That’s the lesson the new DC needs to learn—one the [Zack] Snyder films and the associated ones never did.”

Chris Hemsworth as Tyler Rake in Extraction 2

Extraction 2

“[The] bigger problem with the Extraction films [is that they] are more interested in wowing you with intensity and effort. ‘Look at how much work this sequence must have taken.’ […] It’s a shame the scripts don’t put nearly enough into making us care about the characters and what’s happening to them. [The writer Joe] Russo cares more about expanding his world and building out the ensemble.”

Shameik Moore as Spider-Man/Miles Morales in Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse

Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse

“Here was the opportunity to deliver a note-perfect sequel, but they’ve shot themselves in the foot by splitting it into two. Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse is still a mature, wilder, and more ambitious sequel—one that reminds us what animation is capable of and should aspire to be—but it’s not as wholly impressive as its predecessor.”

Zoe Saldaña as Gamora in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3

“Sure, it’s morbid, maudlin, and flippant at the same time—but it’s also infectious and full of spirit. [James] Gunn is hooked on a feeling and high on believing. It’s far from a smooth ride, it doesn’t always work, but it’s also the bittersweet end of an era. For us, for Gunn, and for Marvel.”

Jude Law as Captain Hook in Peter Pan & Wendy

Peter Pan & Wendy

“For a tale that’s been adapted into film half a dozen times (and scores more on stage), Peter Pan & Wendy was crying out for an infusion of [David] Lowery’s Green Knight magic. Unfortunately, he’s delivered a less-than-serviceable remake that’s both undercooked and repetitive at the same time.”

Ana de Armas as Sadie Rhodes and Chris Evans as Cole Turner in Ghosted


“Sure, the woman is the spy here and the man is the love interest, in contrast to what tends to usually be the case. But it’s no Deadpool or Knives Out, despite how hard it tries. […] A cameo-laden scene halfway through the film where everyone dies is meant to elicit chuckles, but it just doesn’t work. It feels empty and abrupt.”

Jennifer Aniston as Audrey Spitz and Adam Sandler as Nick Spitz in Murder Mystery 2

Murder Mystery 2

“It’s meant to mock tropes and laugh at clichés. It’s about solving a murder while having a ball. Like having your cake and eating it too. But unfortunately, just like with the first one, the sequel is really none of those things. And it’s not for a lack of trying, mind you. Murder Mystery 2 … is just pure cringe, somehow always finding itself on the wrong side of the tracks.”

Keanu Reeves as John Wick in John Wick: Chapter 4

John Wick: Chapter 4

“All that said, it’s hard to argue against the sheer adrenaline thrill that John Wick 4 delivers. Sure, there are just too many dishes and the size of the portions is out of control, but you can’t escape its butt-clenching intensity. John Wick: Chapter 4 delivers on what you expect from a John Wick movie—I just wish it wasn’t overstuffed and so full of itself that it threatens to crowd out its best bits. It could do well to learn from its lean, mean, killing machine.”

Helen Mirren as Hespera in Shazam! Fury of the Gods

Shazam! Fury of the Gods

“While the 2019 original was quick on its feet and excellent in handling the wish-fulfilment stuff, the second Shazam film … lacks the joy and the freshness. […] Watching Shazam! Fury of the Gods, you get the sense that they—[director David F.] Sandberg and his team—stuffed all of their best ideas into the first one. I kept waiting for a lightning bolt to strike the film and bring it back to life. But there’s no spark, no thunderclap, and no real ingenuity.”

Kathryn Newton as Cassie Lang and Paul Rudd as Scott Lang / Ant-Man in Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania

Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania

“Its skies are unreal. Its jungles and animal life are unrecognisable. It’s impossible to locate a horizon. And unlike Earth, the Quantum Realm is seemingly lit equally from every angle. Add to that a lack of foregrounding elements and an overuse of wide bird’s-eye-view shots—they are meant to evoke awe but end up disorienting you—which has a way of flattening and stretching the Marvel movie to an unappealing degree.”