Twenty One Grams

Vampire Owl: I am sure that most of the coffins weigh more than that.

Vampire Bat: I doubt if this a movie about coffins.

Vampire Owl: I have only recently discovered that the coffins weight so less.

Vampire Bat: Why did you lift the coffins all by yourself?

Vampire Owl: There were no vampire apprentices available.

Vampire Bat: You should understand that the coffins feel like having less weight just for us.

Vampire Owl: Yet we have vampire apprentices carrying them for us.

Vampire Bat: They have to be trained in carrying the vampire elders.

Vampire Owl: But I have known that vampire elders can float.

Vampire Bat: They are too old to stay awake for more than five or six hours – coffins are important for transportation.

[Gets a marble cake and three cups of iced tea].

What is the movie about? :: DYSP Nandakishore (Anoop Menon) is assisted by CI Sunny (Anu Mohan) as they go after a series of murders which happened in the city within a small period of time. Anjali (Manasa Radhakrishnan) is the first one to be murdered, and it brought her brother Martin (Chandunath G Nair) back home after spending years abroad, as Father Joseph (Nandu) was the only person who was there to take care of her. But soon, Martin is also murdered, and his body was burnt really bad. CI Sreenivasan (Prasanth Alexander) who was in charge of the investigation had felt that Jimmy (Aji John) might be the one behind these murders as he was a former business partner of Martin, and wanted to settle terms after Martin came back to India. There was a problem between Jimmy and Martin related to a restaurant chains which they owned, and the police wonders if the former tried to bring latter back home and finish the problem forever. But Sreenivasan was not really that much interested in taking the risk against the rich and influential, and was only happy to hand over the case without being a target.

So, what happens with the events here as we just keep looking? :: SP Rachel (Lena) is confident that Nandakishore is the right person to solve this case which has no clues, especially as Srenivasan had kept himself too worried. A new recruit Abhirami (Mareena Michael Kurisingal) also joins the team. As the police check for the goons who were working for Jimmy, they reach a name – Tony (Bineesh Bastin) who seems to be connected. His wife confirms the fact that Tony and Jimmy had seen each other, and an amount of money was provided for some work of eerie nature. But even then, Anjali is understood to have been very much afraid of an unknown person, and there is no clue about who that one was. If the two murders are not related, they would be facing two different killers at the same time or even more. There is also an old contessa car which is seen on different occasions near the spots where the murders had occurred. Is there something more sinister at work? Are there other interesting games of murders happening around here? Can there be a psychotic serial killer at work?

The defence of Twenty One Grams :: We have another interesting crime thriller in store here, with its own fine twists. Providing twists over other twists is quite a difficult job, and this one does the same well, until things come together really well in the end. There seems to be a fine line of events being drawn here so that things could come to that end after drawing a good number of red herrings in between. There are so many characters whom we doubt as being the killer, and we also have so many motives – with the possibility of suspecting being endless, the guesses are to be mostly wrong; the movie seals some ideas in those dialogues which feels to be less relevant when spoken, but through flashbacks, we know that these things were basically clues. Predictability will not be an element here even though the film can trick you into believing that you know things better than the cops here. The movie is very well shot too, and the visuals, especially that of the city is impressive – it suits the movie’s mood really well too. The music used in the background here is really good and some effects nicely contribute to the totality.

Positives and negatives :: The pace at which the movie progress is very good, even though at times, it seems to talk more and do less – it still works as we look closer. Some background is predictable. You ability to guess the killer is so continuously tested that there are so many people you will note down as killers. A quality that this movie has, is to know how, when and where to hide, and how to reveal them all when least expected – it never uses the mass style to do that, and that makes this one a movie more for the OTT rather than for those theatres infested with mindless fans. This is certainly not a one killer or a killer with a helper movie like Forensic, John Luther, Anjaam Pathira or Antakshari. Here, we don’t have the star power of Drishyam, Cold Case or Memories, but the effectiveness makes sure that it won’t need that. The movie also has a conspiracy which needs to be brought to light, and we see that there is more than what meets the eye. This is one of those movie releases which I had actually missed – there were so many shots of this movie which could have made the film feel effective in the trailer; unlike those overhyped films, this one could have used more initial hype.

The performers of the soul :: Anoop Menon always feels like the right choice for a police officer like this – the intellectual non-CBI police officer works like a dream for him. He did play the role of superstar in Home, and there is a fine presence that he has at all times. One strong performance that we here is that of Leona Lishoy though, as the lady left in sadness due to multiple reasons. Anu Mohan provides some fine support as police inspector aiding in the case. Manasa Radhakrishnan, despite playing the character who is killed early, remains central to the plot, just like Chandunath G Nair who plays her brother here. Nandu has the role of a priest which comes well for him. Mareena Michael Kurisingal of Mumbai Taxi and Aby fame only gets a few moments to shine though. Shanker Ramakrishnan and Renji Panicker got some smaller roles, which won’t be remembered much. Bineesh Bastin has a little bit of work to do, but not for long. Aji John and Jeeva Joseph plays two characters who are part of the schemes well. Ranjith who appears only in the later half of the movie, also brings some moments of glory.

How it finishes :: Twenty One Grams might be a lesser known movie, but it manages to be a lot better than most of those higher budget films made with the bigger superstars and having those dumb mass elements for the fans. There are so many moments that keep us guessing, and after all those guesses, we feel that we had gone the wrong direction – there is a lot of skill being used here in bringing things together in the end. Maybe, one of those superstar movies can take some of those superior ideas out of this one. It seems that the movies that we less expect to be the big mystery is actually the smarter one – the best minds behind making thrillers are often hidden in the background, and to know them, we have to travel beyond the usual. There are so many movies which have gone rather unknown because they couldn’t marketed well, or the names of the actors were not part of any fan club – this one shouldn’t go lost in that manner. This is another thriller which needs to be celebrated for its smartness, and let it not fall into the deep abyss of avoidance – watch it and see how well it uses the puzzles.

Release date: 10th June 2022 (Hotstar); 18th March 2022 (Theatre)
Running time: 132 minutes
Directed by: Bibin Krishna
Starring: Anoop Menon, Leona Lishoy, Renji Panicker, Prasanth Alexander, Anu Mohan, Ranjith, Vivek Anirudh, Lena, Chandunath G Nair, Aji John, Jeeva Joseph, Bineesh Bastin, Manasa Radhakrishnan, Nandu, Mareena Michael Kurisingal, Shanker Ramakrishnan, Rajeesh Kartha

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@ Cemetery Watch
✠ The Vampire Bat.

The Priest

What is the movie about? :: Fr Carmen Benedict (Mammootty) is a priest who is known to have helped the police in multiple cases. Diya Alex Alatt (Saniya Iyappan) approaches him with a certain amount of concern regarding a series of deaths which had occured earlier in the rich and influential family, and were dismissed as suicides. Diya feels that the present controller of the assets of the family, Elizabeth Alatt (Meera Nair) might know something about it. He calls DYSP Shekhar (Sivadas Kannur), who begins to share some of his doubts. When a little girl named Ameya Gabriel (Baby Monica) is also found in the house, and the connected incidents related to her lead to the discovery of more clues related to the murder, Fr Carmen also understands that there is more to her than what meets the eye. Ameya is an orphan, and nobody has any idea what she is upto, because she often goes missing from her orphanage, and comes back by herself. Her actions are also nothing less than what others consider to be strange.

So, what happens with the events to follow? :: Jessy Cherian (Nikhila Vimal), a new teacher takes charge in the school where Ameya is studying. Even though Ameya has been hostile to each and every person in the school including teachers and students, she immediately becomes friendly to Jessy who is also happy about the same. As the school is closed for summer vacation, Ameya begs for her to be taken with Jessy. With the permission of the orphanage authorities, she manages to take the child to her home in the highlands, which had been abandoned for a long time. But it turns out that this child is not really the kid which she had expected. When anyone else comes in between Jessy and Ameya, the latter reacts violently, especially when Jessy’s fiance Siddharth (Venkitesh VP) comes to meet her, and proposes her. Soon, things take a further violent turn, and Fr Carmen makes his way to the place, as he understands the seriousness of the situation. But this might not be the kind of spirit which Carmen thought it is. He takes the help of Dr Mathews (TG Ravi), but he understands the need to learn about the spirit.

The defence of The Priest :: The movie scores heavily with its visuals, as we do have a perfect setting for horror, and along with the environment, there are the usual scares effectively used with the help of sound effects. The music is also very interesting. The scares are added here and there, and at times they work depending on the audience. There are some twists to be added here, but we do expect a few among with ease, seemingly because of trying to stick to the Hollywood style. The performance are also of a higher level, even though we do feel that the first investigation was even more interesting than what came later. It does have the most interesting part in the beginning, like Mammootty’s Abrahaminte Santhathikal had that crime at the start, and even with the presence of clowns, doesn’t make them nonsensical like it was done in the strange Mammootty movie The Great Father. Instead, most of the time, The Priest plays to its strength, and makes sure that there is no risk taken, even though it was there to be taken.

The claws of flaw :: The Priest has many elements which we would feel borrowed, and the reminder of Hollywood movies is sure to come back here. The climax doesn’t deliver the needed punch either, as it goes through the safe way, and adds one scene after the finish, seemingly as a justification. Looking at films like The Conjuring, The Nun, Insidious, Sinister and Annabelle, we have had an overdose of horror movies with spirits, and as there was enough for reference, this could have certainly done better – we all remember what Ezra did with the Jewish demon. Well, when the demon really doesn’t want to be terrifying, and with the first motive being close to a Mathematics teachers, the scary side weakens – when the motive and actions of the supernatural doesn’t scare us enough, the genre itself struggles. After all, a spirit should do what it always does the best, and it should go further when listing itself as a horror film at all places. There can be more to an act of exorcism and the process of haunting. We also see something missing with the sequence of events, but can’t talk about that without revealing the suspense and twists.

The performers of the soul :: The movie was marketed as the first movie in which Mammootty and Manju Warrier acted together – the last word does have some complications though, because the latter’s character was dead some time ago, and so the characters won’t be living together in the film, and we would have to wait to see them in the leading roles. Manju Warrier’s role is also quite short here, and it can be considered only as long as the work of Saniya Iyappan who also has some work to do related to the first adventure of the protagonist. Mammootty’s avatar here is a lot better than what we have seen in most of his action and thriller films, and this is a character that he does with ease. We can now remember him like Father Brown, the Roman Catholic priest and detective who was the main character in the fifty three short stories written by British novelist GK Chesterton in the years after Victorian era. There we were not into horror though.

Further performers of the soul :: Even though often known as the first Mammootty-Manju Warrier movie, the latter gets only limited presence, and in the first half we don’t even have a clue that she exists. But when she is there, she works through this very well. Nikhila Vimal is once again seen as a talented actress, extending her good work from Njan Prakashan and Aravindante Athithikal. Saniya Iyappan has the early shorter presence, and as we had seen her effectiveness in horror with Krishnankutty Pani Thudangi where she was the only saving grace, we were expected more of her presence there. Ramesh Pisharody and Jagadish are also given some early moments in here. Venkitesh VP whom we have known from the television show Nayika Nayakan also has done some good work. Baby Monica also contributes nicely once the horror side begins. She excels in displaying that scary side which is brought to light in the second half of the movie.

How it finishes :: The Priest was among the much awaited movies with Mammootty in the lead, and it has come late due to COVID-19 pandemic – according to the reports, it has still managed to be a profit-making venture, even with the theatre occupancy being controlled. The Priest is the one Malayalam movie which brought the viewers to the theatres and made sure that the business was running smoothly. As it has released on the OTT platform of Amazon Prime, one can now watch the film without those fears which we had earlier. The Priest is not only on a path towards being a stylish horror movie, as it is also an innovation in having a release on an OTT platform a month after its theatre release – it is a path which many more movies can follow, as there are other films which need to be released, and we are still facing the worst case of that one grand pandemic. With the clouds bringing darkness early in the afternoon, The Priest makes an interesting thriller for the time, even though it could have been bigger and smarter.

I also wish everyone a Very Happy Vishu! Stay safe and enjoy the day 🙂

Release date: 11th March 2021 (Theatre), 14th April 2021 (Amazon Prime)
Running time: 147 minutes
Directed by: Jofin T Chacko
Starring: Mammootty, Manju Warrier, Nikhila Vimal, Baby Monica, Venkitesh VP, Saniya Iyappan, Sivadas Kannur, Jagadish, Lishoy, Shivaji Guruvayoor, Ramesh Pisharody, Kochu Preman, Ameya Mathew, TG Ravi, Dinesh Panicker, Kalabhavan Haneef, Naseer Sankranthi, Sminu Sijo, Jeeva Joseph, Shiny T Rajan, VK Prakash, Meera Nair, Thomas Kuriakose, Jayadevan, Manoj Chennai, Sohan Seenulal, Madhupal

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@ Cemetery Watch
✠ The Vampire Bat.