Cold Case Movie Review: Stiff performances, colourless storytelling
The film's eagerness to get to the final twist comes at the cost of engaging storytelling
Cold Case is yet another film that boasts big names in the cast and technical crew but eventually ends up not doing justice to their stature and talents. It feels more like a TED talk on forensic science than a movie. It takes more delight in relaying information to the audience than moving organically from one plot point to another. You expect engrossing storytelling but what you end up getting is an experience akin to listening to the audiobook version of a crime novel. Or how about a two-hour CID episode with better production values and photography?
Director: Tanu Balak
Cast: Prithviraj, Aditi Balan, Suchitra Pillai
Streaming on: Amazon Prime Video
As in The Priest, Cold Case blends two different genres. It opens with two episodes of exorcism to suggest the possibility of crime-solving through it. We first meet Medha (Aditi Balan), a television journalist grappling with domestic issues and a supernatural presence trapped in her new home. On the other hand, Prithviraj's ACP Sathyajith, a cop, is tasked with uncovering the identity of a skull discovered from the bottom of a lake and, subsequently, the person responsible for the murder. But given the absence of the rest of the remains, the unknown gender of the victim, and lack of an immediately discoverable clue, Sathyajith and team have an extremely challenging job ahead. But they behave as though it isn't.
The best moment in the film involves two characters in opposite parts of the city simultaneously making the same discovery. But there is also the nagging feeling that Cold Case would've been a better film had it concentrated only on the investigation track. After everything is said and done, you ask if the parallel horror track is necessary when Sathyajith can solve everything by himself. You ask why the film had to include Medha and a creepy-looking fridge with, err, a life of its own. (If you had ever switched off your food-laden refrigerator for weeks on account of an emergency and then returned home to find yourself dreading the thought of opening it, some scenes in the film might creep you out.)
I have to admit that the film does a fairly decent job of showing us what routes the investigators would usually take in a one-of-a-kind situation, even though not all of it adds up. To be fair to the film, it manages to keep us curious about where everything is going. It succeeds in concealing the killer's identity till the end. The final twist is not one we see coming from a mile away, but the revelation is only moderately chilling. Despite offering a small degree of satisfaction, the payoff doesn't clear up all loose ends either. We recall the characters bringing up some names, doubts and suspicious behaviour earlier and question their relevance in light of the final developments. After a point, it simply becomes an I-know-someone-who-knows-
The casting choices in the film rarely make any sense. With everyone acting so stiff and delivering stilted dialogues, it often gets on your nerves. There is the sense of watching the Malayalam-dubbed version of a film made in another language. The characters sound like they stepped out of a Shaji Kailas thriller made post-2000, minus the fiery dialogues. (I don't think adding 'mass' dialogues or fight scenes would've helped the film either.) Imagine listening to a line like, "Let me suggest an officer, one Mr....," in this day and age. A few supporting players like Lakshmipriya Chandramouli, Kannan Nayar, and Srikanth K Vijayan manage to make the best out of the material given to them.
And don't get me started on the other annoying aspects, such as the little girl singing to her creepy-looking doll or the done-to-death Ratsasan-inspired musical box tunes accompanying a kid's voice. How many times are we going to see the same thing? Also, for a "fictional story set in a post-pandemic world where masks are unnecessary" (as said in the opening titles), how come only a couple of characters wear masks but not the others? I give up.
Those familiar with Prithviraj's entire filmography will inevitably compare Cold Case to the far superior thrillers he did in the past, such as Memories or Mumbai Police, in front of which Cold Case looks like a weak, grossly underwhelming experience. In the promos for Cold Case, the makers conveyed the impression of the film being more plot-driven than character-driven. But what do we do when the plot is so colourless?