What is the movie about? :: A group of friends is shown as making a journey through the forest, and after meeting an accident on the way, they are shot. Then the scene shifts to six hours earlier to an airport. Six students from a school are traveling from Kerala to Karnataka to take part in an inter-school competition in Bengaluru. But unfortunately, their flight is cancelled, and they have to travel by a bus instead. Along with them, there are the teachers from the school and a former student, Anupama (Indu Thampy) who is also in trouble due to the flight being cancelled. On the way, they reach the exact same place where the accident had happened, and there the bus is hijacked by a group of gunmen who were seen earlier. The gunmen are basically trying to get away from police and cross the border with a collection of drugs which they hope to exchange for a good amount of money. For the same, they hope to keep the bus and the students with them.
So, what happens with the events here? :: As the bus keep moving, the police are also after them, but with the bus in their control, they are able to keep themselves going. The man in charge of the operations is Commissioner Jayakumar IPS (Shyamaprasad). Now, as the teachers, Geetha (Devi Ajith) and Vinayan (Harikrishnan) are thrown out of the bus, the remaining students are Alisha (Sanjana Nair), Elsa (Keerthana Sreekumar), Chandrika (Keerthana P Kumar), Fiza (Abhirami), Bhoomi (Anagha Ravi) and Dwani (Parthavi Vinod), along with Anupama. Now they face the biggest problem in their life, as they realize that most probably, they won’t be going back home. Even though the police do find them, they are killed by the goons. Now, they have to take the matter into their hands and try to escape, but can they do it before time runs out?
The defence of Eighteen Hours :: There is some good experimentation in the form of a survival film here, and despite having some veteran actors in smaller roles in there, we have a lot of young blood at work, as there is some risk well taken around here. But as they all come up with pretty good performances, and with the atmosphere being used very well, film turns out to be effective. The background music is effective, and there is one good song to add to it. The camera work is fantastic, and there are some fine visuals of the forest, even though the focus actually shifts in between, which affects that possibility. Almost all of the film is focused on a forest, or semi-forest area, which is a big bonus for this kind of a theme, even though more adventures through the forest would have been preferred. The final moments also bring a twist, and has hope for a possible sequel, which turned out to be a nice idea, as this film was too short with its length.
The claws of flaw :: The film doesn’t utilize all the elements to its best advantage, even though the scope was for much more – when you get people being kidnapped with the setting in the forest, you know that the possibilities are endless. After all, a forest in nobody’s permanent ally, and it doesn’t matter what your age, gender or social and economic status used to be – a criminal or an innocent, forest has its say. We have seen similar hostage situations in films before, but this one in a more stylish take on the same, with no saviours and no planning, going rather ruthlessly at it, and in a contemporary world with drug-based crimes increasing, one would expect similar things to happen more than they used to be – COVID-19 has left people highly unstable, unpredictable and ready for anything. With a run-time of just more than one and half hours, it doesn’t establish the background story that much. It could have also used more fighting sequences, along with some extra running around and hiding – this should have focused more on escaping and hiding, but it is less in comparison.
Performers of the soul :: Indu Thampy plays the leading character here, and keeps things going, as she only gains strength. The elements of Type 1 Diabetic are nicely incorporated here, as she is supposed to be playing a character with the same health problem which she has in life, and she has some action sequences which are managed really well. Among the veteran actors, only Shyamaprasad gets something to perform here, and he plays the character well when focused on him. He has good scope in playing a senior police officer, as it is shown here. We have all loved him for his skills as a director, and one has to feel that Hollywood touch which was in Ivide and Hey Jude also being reflected here as far as style is concerned. Even he has a small role to play in his films, he has always made that memorable, and it is the same case here. We had last seen him as an actor this year itself, in Chathur Mukham, and we also remember his role in Ranam, another underrated film with its own moments of glory.
Further performers of the soul :: Vijay Babu has an even smaller role even though we feel that this was going to be a bigger role from how it goes in the beginning, while Sudheer Karamana’s work is unfortunately too small for our liking, as we all expected him to make a comeback at later stages as part of the search for the bus. One has to wonder why they needed other police officers to the lead other teams when the latter was there to make an impact. Lengthier presence of such actors were required, but I guess that they can be used better in a possible sequel in the future. The newcomers do handle the work well though. While the villains do suit their role, the girls do their job really well, and considering the fact that this is the first film for most of the cast around here, everything goes very much nicely. For a number of these performers, there will be more roles coming, and bright future is there for at least some of them, depending on how things would go in their next films. Former Miss India, Mansi Sehgal is also here in a cameo.
How it finishes :: Eighteen Hours, despite missing the chance to go higher, has its own merits running through it. It should be the belief in its strengths that made sure that this one had its release not in the theatres, but on Mazhavil Manorama as well as the app, Manorama Max. With less resources and also with a lot of newcomers, the film has managed enough to be entertaining in an atmosphere which seems to make the most out of it. Even when the film seems to struggle, it manages to raise its bar later, and just like its protagonists, the movie doesn’t give up, and goes on to bring a surprise in the end. The director’s best known film was Salt Mango Tree, along with other familiar titles like Thrissur Pooram and Escape from Uganda, but this film, even though without the big names playing major roles, gets to be better, and can inspire even better flicks like this. It adds on as another interesting release during COVID-19 pandemic lockdown, coming straight to home.
Release date: 1st August 2021 (Mazhavil Manorama and Manorama MAX)
Running time: 138 minutes
Directed by: Rajesh Nair
Starring: Indu Thampy, Vijay Babu, Sudheer Karamana, Shyamaprasad, Advaith Ajay, Harikrishnan, Krishnan Balakrishnan, Devi Ajith, Vimal Vijay, Sanjana Nair, Keerthana Sreekumar, Keerthana P Kumar, Abhirami, Anagha Ravi, Parthavi Vinod, Mansi Sehgal
@ Cemetery Watch
✠ The Vampire Bat.