The horror of Islamic honor killings is the central point of Shan Khan’s impressive directorial debut, Honour, but the film resembles more of a low-budget Jason Bourne flick rather than a cultural investigation. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, however. The luminous performance of Aiysha Hart and Khan’s slick style make the film more than just an action flick with a message.
Memorable and talented best describe the cast of Honour, led by the aforementioned Hart as Mona, a young Pakistani woman living in London. She leads an unintentional double-life as a woman in love, but unable to please her scrupulous mother (Harvey Virdi) and protective brother (played by a dynamic Faraz Ayub) due to her boyfriend’s Punjabi background. Mona has the ear of her younger brother, Adel (Shubham Saraf), but his perceived weakness also has him in bad standing with his elders.
Once Mona realizes her potentially deadly error, she splits town and director Khan introduces one of his many plot twists. The family teams up with a former white supremacist (Paddy Considine) to track down their lost daughter, which leads to a suspenseful game of cat and mouse.
Shan Khan, although limited in budget, does well utilizing the tools made available to him. The first ten-minutes feature a double-dose of shock treatment and the director constructs acute flashback sequences to connect all the missing links throughout the film. A rooftop chase scene has a strong resemblance to Martin Scorsese’s 2006 film “The Departed,” while the cinematography of David Higgs allows the viewer to glimpse the complete surroundings of the characters. Rapid editing by Beverley Mills and high-low camera angles display what kind of filmmaker Khan hopes to become.
The casting of Paddy Considine (“The World’s End“) is brilliant simply because he is a likable, nameless baddie. He wants to get out of the game, but the clichéd “one last job” has him joining forces with someone he used to perceive as the enemy. And that’s what Khan brings to the table with Honour — perception. What do you really see? More than once Considine’s character says, “Tell me your story, I’ll tell you mine.” The tight-lipped Mona is weary of opening up, and rightly so, but the challenge is to overcome perceptions and arrive at the truth. The violent brother Kasim (Ayub) has no such wishes, choosing religious tradition above all else.
If one can like the Paddy Considine character, one will love Aiysha Hart as Mona on the Run (Run, Mona, Run!), who has the viewer’s sympathy from the very start. The tall and slender frame, the exquisite beauty, the acting chops — Aiysha Hart is the total package, and her chemistry with Considine is odd yet effective. Hart is the unwilling participant in a dangerous game and Considine is Jason Bourne reincarnated, which is apparent in a remarkable alley sequence.
Shan Khan has proven with Honour that he is capable of making films in the style akin to Fernando Meirelles, complete with a couple of likable leads, a terrifying villain and an examination of cultures. It’s not quite as good as Meirelles’ work, but the powerful twists and the mesmerizing final shot are sure to gain Mr. Shan Khan many fans. I, being one, will be on the lookout for his next project.