Nizhal Movie Review: Kunchacko Boban shines in a bland thriller
Nizhal is a thriller with an intriguing setup but a weak payoff
Nizhal is the directorial debut of noted editor, digital intermediate, and visual effects expert Appu N Bhattathiri. As expected, the film has several frames that attest to his talents. It has one of the best opening sequences I've seen in recent Malayalam cinema. We get some seamless visual effects -- rain plays an integral part in the narrative -- and neat transition effects with parallel imagery. Nizhal makes Kochi look like New York.
But the best thing about the film is, undoubtedly, Kunchacko, giving one of his most arresting performances. The actor plays John Baby, a first-class judicial magistrate dealing with the trauma of a recent accident. This trauma manifests in inventive ways, and Kunchacko expresses John's dilemma so convincingly. He has to wear a mask for medical reasons, which bothers him whenever he goes out in the city or to court. For some, he looks like a superhero; for others, a dreaded smuggler. Such assumptions are fodder for the film's occasional light-hearted moments.
Nizhal is the second film after The Priest to feature a mysterious child with unsettling secrets. In fact, John Baby's injury is an excuse for the film's writers to introduce this boy, who happens to be the son of Sharmila (Nayanthara), a woman who runs a motion graphics company. She is also a widow. When John meets the boy, he sees in him a kindred spirit because, well, they both can 'see' things. John goes digging, and soon a body is discovered in the location mentioned by the boy. When the boy tells more stories, John, along with Sharmila, tries to find a connection.
I have to admit this setup got me intrigued, but I found the payoff too underwhelming. My interest in the story began to dwindle after a certain point. I found most of the characters, save for John, stiff. They seem more like props to take the story forward rather than interesting standalone characters. Take the child psychologist played by Divyaprabha, for instance. Everything she says and does has a mechanical quality. Sharmila is not too different either.
As for the others, they exist to feed information to John or crack a joke. At one point, a low-ranking police officer (Aneesh Gopal) drops in out of nowhere to track John's movements. There is no doubt about Aneesh's comic abilities, but his inclusion feels forced. I wasn't blown away by the final twist either. After the film ended, I asked myself, "That's it?"