‘Game Over’ Movie Review: A jaw-dropping and heart-stopping thriller

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The horrors that you get to experience in Game Over are on a whole new high. Such an arresting act by Taapsee Pannu!

Swapna (an immensely powerful performance from Taapsee Pannu for the protagonist) is sharing her experience of fear and breathlessness, that she had inside a dark room, to a Doctor. While she does so, the camera steadily, slowly and quietly enters the room moving from right to left. In another scene, on the outside, Kalamma (Vinodhini Vaidyanathan), Swapna’s caretaker, can be seen from the window grills to be hanging the clothes out to dry. The camera, which is inside the room, leisurely moves towards the window producing an eerie feeling out of normal activity. And, in another instance, a close shot captures the lighting of a thick candle. Then there’s a slow-motion sequence in black-and-white where Swapna looks jovial while getting inked. During this, there’s a close shot of ink being dropped in a glass of water that gets slowly spread around and mixed up. Sometimes, inside a dimly-lit room, the camera cautiously moves towards a door creating a strange feeling. You also listen to the creak of a swing chair, as the camera ploddingly goes towards it, outside the house.

A. Vasanth’s cinematography is the very first thing that stands out as the film gives you glimpses of different elements of the story. Perhaps this is not anywhere close to the brilliant camera work of Alfonso Cuarón’s Roma. But it is definitely among the greatest works in Indian cinema. It just presented Director Ashwin Saravanan’s Game Over in a different light altogether. Of course, Ashwin’s vision is a big factor too. It’s not just the stupendous camera work that excites you but also how important these detailed shots turn out to be as the movie progresses.

The core of the narrative in Game Over is about incidents of some unknown men taking videos of women while torturing them, beheading them and then burning their headless body. One of those women in the film, who ends up being the target of these men, is Swapna. The film does not dwell too much on this character’s life. We take a gander at her past life where she is seen to have been kept in captivity inside a dark room and being tortured. This agonising incident is etched in her memory so much so that she finds herself in a state of terrible uneasiness when she encounters darkness inside a room. The tattoo, that she has on one of her forearms, resembling a video game controller, as she is a game freak, turn out to be a memorial tattoo that contains the ashes of a dead woman. Towards the intermission, the film can make you feel a bit of restlessness as Swapna’s fear of dark room and being a victim of torture (that never gets elaborated but only shown briefly) may seem repetitive and dragged a little. Even the tattoo is used as something that can add sentimental value to the film (The dead woman’s mother comes to see Swapna and have a feel of the memorial tattoo as it contains ashes of her daughter but it doesn’t move you because the focus was never really on building the story of this dead woman character).

Ashwin decides to finish off the first half of the movie with a message on the screen that says, “Game On”. Well, it literally means ‘What if life is a game’ (You will understand why when you see it). It’s the post-interval part that keeps you on the edge of the seat with your eyes popping out and mouth wide open in fearfulness. Every detailed camera shot that you saw in the first half will start finding meaning in the second half. There’s a headless body sitting in the swing chair. The head cut off from the body is thrown at the window. Swapna’s fear of darkness comes to the fore and this time with even more intensity. Men, all covered up in a black outfit, carrying daggers, don’t just sit on the couch and give a villainous look but also slit the throat instantly. The thick candle shown earlier comes into play as well as it, along with a flammable oil, is used for setting fire on one of these men and burn them.

The amazing music by Ron Ethan Yohann gives a boost to thrilling sequences in the film. The film is, one might say, India’s answer to Jordon Peele’s Get Out. The horrors that you get to experience in Game Over is on a whole new high, just like Get Out, but it also comes at a price. Like Get Out, amidst the shockers and thrillers, you may feel some of the elements not fully developed and left half-baked. But you won’t be thinking about all that after such an arresting act by Taapsee Pannu and heart-stopping experience that you get while watching this film.

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Badla Movie Review: Bogged down by predictability

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Badla is not the sort of movie that would keep you on the edge of the seat that it intends to.

Arjun (Tony Luke) frantically washes off the blood from his hand and comes out of the washroom. He takes a close look at the framed photos on the wall. One of the photos displays the poster of arguably the greatest drama of all time – Sydney Lumet’s 12 Angry Men. When it comes to figuring out the best movies that form conjectures on how crime would have taken place, 12 Angry Men sits right on top of my list. I have no idea if this photo was deliberately included by Director Sujoy Ghosh. But you do get a flavour of that iconic film in Ghosh’s latest venture.

Thankfully I did not watch Contratiempo / The Invisible Guest (Badla is a remake of this film). Badla is a sort of a movie where you want to be knowing nothing about the story as it would be extremely difficult to get through this film if you have already seen the original. But even without knowing the significant twists and turns in the plot, I had already predicted the culprit in the very beginning.

“Justice is blind”, utters Badal Gupta (Amitabh Bachchan is terrific in this character as he has been for decades). He, further, says in one of the scenes, “jo saabit ho sake vahi sach hai” (Truth is what can be proved). He has been hired as the attorney for defending the case of murder. Naina Sethi (Taapsee Pannu renders a magnificent performance for this role which emulates that of Amitabh Bachchan), who claims to have been framed as the accused in this murder, recounts what ‘exactly’ transpired that led to the killing of the son of Rani (Amrita Singh) and Nirmal (Tanveer Ghani) and also that of Naina’s boyfriend Arjun. Badla, which means revenge, involves how Naina builds a story from her vantage point to prove her innocence and how she intends to make everyone believe that framing her as the accused was an act of revenge.

Badla does not portray an intricate story. Primarily it only focuses on two incidents. This became problematic as the narrative continuously harks back to the same set of events and even as little things get revealed every time those same set of events are revisited, they did not really contain any major surprise element. The engrossing interrogation that ensues early on when Badal Gupta, with a constant smile on his face, asks Naina to tell nothing but the truth, acts as a great premise. But it is bogged down by the predictability. But even though I had already prefixed my mind on who the real culprit is, the writing of the film is so well-crafted that accompanies different conjectures, as Badal Gupta surmises what might have happened on the basis of Naina’s account, it did make me wonder if I am right regarding my prediction.

I found the second half of the movie to be more impressive, especially towards the end, as Badal Gupta dives deeper into the “baarikiyaan” (details) of the story narrated by Naina. Amidst the seriousness during the conversation between Badal and Naina, there were little things that might go unnoticed, as they were not the point of focus, but were a great addition (Initially Badal keeps referring Naina, who is his client, by “you”. When he calls her by her name for the first time during the conversation, he justifies that his daughter is of the same age as Naina that made him call so. In another instance, while seriously discussing with her, he adroitly says that he won’t mind a cup of coffee). Badla is not a bad movie. But it is just not the sort of movie that would keep you on the edge of the seat that it intends to.