Operation Java Movie Review: A competently made, thrill-a-minute police drama
The film produces the effect of having seen three of four crime thrillers at once
There is an old American TV show from the 80s called Crime Story, created by filmmaker Michael Mann. It was about a bunch of cops working in the Special Crimes unit. What I loved most about it is the way the characters build a strong bond while navigating different cases in each episode. I loved Tharun Moorthy's feature debut Operation Java for the same reasons -- and more. Its ability to achieve the same thing in 145 mins is so impressive.
The film depicts multiple cases in episodic fashion, all with satisfying resolutions, handled by the police's Kochi-based cybercrimes unit. But the action is not just confined to Kochi. The team also travels to Tamil Nadu and Kasaragod, where they get involved in some hairy situations that are guaranteed to keep you glued to your seats. The structure might remind one of Action Hero Biju, but Operation Java is miles apart from that film in terms of mood. It also has a consistent tone, unlike the other.
Director: Tharun Moorthy
Cast: Balu Varghese, Lukman, Irshad, Binu Pappu, Prasanth Alexander
Operation Java is the film that, to me, also tops Anjaam Pathira. While the former doesn't depict crimes that are as gruesome as the ones in the latter, it still manages to conjure a near-similar level of dread, and it does this despite focusing on cases that don't always involve murder. That is no easy feat. Balu Varghese and Lukman play two B. Tech graduates who work as delivery boys. But their talent for solving cybercrimes gets the attention of the Kochi Cyber Cell unit comprising a group of men and a woman. But their position is a temporary one given that they are required to enlist as trainees with no guarantee of a permanent placement. (By the way, this film is also a tribute to these 'temporary' workers.) Their challenges involve not only cracking cases but also gracefully handling ugly office politics. There is that one jerk (Prasanth Alexander) in their office who makes things difficult for them. The fieldwork is no walk in the park either. But to even that out, we get two sympathetic officers in the form of Irshad and Binu Pappu. These two are the healing balm for the psychological damages inflicted by the former. These interactions, along with the ones between the cops and complainants, are also the source of some much-needed humour and warmth.
We get all kinds of fascinating cases backed up by impressive research. They have a cautionary bent to them. The first is the 2015 piracy issue revolving around Premam, then comes a recruitment fraud, followed by a chilling breaking-and-entering situation. Besides, we also witness the case of a husband (Vinayakan) trying to protect his wife and daughter from the shame-inducing after-effects of a fake porn clip circulating online. Another peculiar situation has the unit being notified of an incident while pursuing a suspect from another incident. The film is a masterclass on creating a sense of urgency even in those crimes where no blood is shed. Well, when you have Jakes Bejoy's pulsing score, that part is almost covered.
Several moments in Operation Java reminded me of the excitement caused by the first three Jason Bourne films (sans the parkour stunts and car chases, that is) or David Fincher's Zodiac. Now that I brought it up, I would say Operation Java is the closest we get to Zodiac in Malayalam in terms of its atmosphere.
Cinematographer Faiz Siddik employs chiaroscuro lighting, smoke, and desaturated colours to create the right mood. Operation Java has the best night photography I've seen this side of Anjaam Pathira. I also found some of the little details amusing, like how a couple of cops are sharing porn clips via WhatsApp while in the middle of an operation to catch the guy who uploaded the 'censor copy' of Premam online. In another scene, Vinitha Koshy is reading Wilbur Smith's Predator right before an intruder breaks into her apartment.
Operation Java also gets brownie points for its astute political awareness. The eagerness to delve a bit into the behaviour of law enforcement officials is also admirable. It's a profession where patience is of paramount importance, as demonstrated by my favourite character in the film, the senior officer played by Binu Pappu. He knows when to raise his voice and when to lower it. He knows that sometimes the best results are obtained without using extreme tactics.
When the trailers came out, we expected something good. After seeing the film, I have to say I didn't expect it to be great! You could tell from its quality that Operation Java is one of those films born out of the perfect harmony between the thoughts of the director, actors, cinematographer, editor, composer, art direction and every other department. The storytelling format is such that it produces the effect of having seen three or four crime thrillers at once. When the film ended, I felt a strong urge to see these characters get together for one more ride. I hope to see my wish granted soon.