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Don’t Wait Until Dark

FILM REVIEWS SACHIN CHATTE

Film: Game Over

Cast: Taapsee Pannu, Vinodhini Vaidyanathan

Directed by: Ashwin Saravanan

Duration: 1 hr 43 mins

Rating: * * *

‘What if life is a video game and déjà vu are just check points?’ reads a poster hanging on a wall in Game Over, which is a Tamil-Telugu psychological thriller that has been dubbed in Hindi and is backed by Anurag Kashyap. It is a clever little film that is high on concept and execution both. This particular genre of psychological thrillers is virtually non-existent and considering that writer-director Ashwin Saravanan has managed to deliver a smart flick that holds your attention. At times, particularly, towards the end, it reminded me of Jordan Peele’s Us (2019), especially on the count of making the audience uneasy.

From the first frame, we cut to the chase, there is no meandering around – a single woman at home is attacked, kidnapped and brutally murdered. Fast forward to a couple of years later, we meet the main protagonist Sapna (Tapsee Pannu) who is a video game designer – more often than not, we see her playing video games, especially good old, Pacman. Life is good except for one major problem – she is terrified of the dark –nyctophobia is the medical term for that and it happened to her because of post-traumatic stress. While she is seeking therapy, her domestic help (Vinodhini Vaidyanathan) who lives with her is the only person she interacts with largely.

The scene is then set for virtual and real to amalgamate with each other leading to an engrossing climax.

By keeping the story largely indoors, Saravanan manages to create the atmospherics and claustrophobia, particularly after Sapna is housebound. The story also uses the context of gaming quite cleverly – she wishes she could go back and change things. Unlike games, where you could have three lives or a cheat code, life doesn’t necessarily work that way. But what if it did? Game Over explores these themes and more.

Taapsee Pannu is in fine form, she plays the insecurities, fears, and helplessness of her character with utter conviction.

Effectively, Game Over is not a film without blemishes, but it is certainly an effort worth appreciating.

Animal Farm

Film: The Secret Life of Pets – 2

Voices of: Patton Oswalt, Kevin Hart, Tiffany Haddish

Directed by: Chris Renaud, Jonathan del Val

Duration: 1 hr 30 mins

Rating: * * *

Animals have always been a part of animation films, especially in the last couple of decades or so. The first edition of The Secret Life of Pets (2016) and crammed in so many of them and yet made their characters look distinct and that was one of the reasons why the film was a big success.

This sequel looks like it was done more for the purpose of cashing in on the success of the previous film rather than have a novel story to tell. The different characters are just assembled some kind of chaos and conflict is created, leading to a resolution and a bit of pet and human bonhomie is thrown in to give it an emotional touch – those who pets will easily identify such scenes. So once again, Max (voice of Patton Oswalt, replacing Louis CK) the Jack Russell terrier is at the centre of the story along with his buddy Duke, the mutt. There’s a new kid in the family who adapts well to the dogs and vice versa. The whole family leaves for a vacation and that is where most of the action takes place. They make friends with a bossy dog named Rooster (the distinct voice of Harrison Ford) and manage to wriggle out of precarious situations.

Back in the apartment building, the bunny Snowball (Kevin Hart) fantasises about being a superhero and gets an opportunity to play that part while the Pomeranian Gidget has to rescue a toy from the clutches of cats and to say that they are a handful of them is an understatement.

While the first film had the novelty of being introduced to the Motley Crue, this one plays it by the numbers, largely. To its credit, the film zips along at a very brisk pace and there are quite a few situations worth a chuckle.

So while it may not have a lot of heart, it does have a fair bit of fun. 

Getting Alienated

Film: Men in Black: International

Cast: Chris Hemsworth, Tessa Thompson, Liam Neeson

Directed by: F. Gary Gray

Duration: 1 hr 53 mins

Rating: * *

Some franchisees deserve closure and some of them shouldn’t be a franchise in the first place and Men in Black is one of them. After all, there is only so much that you can take of men fighting aliens. For a change, there is a woman who is also a part of the men in black and that is the only smart decision taken, as far as this film is concerned.

Back in 1997, Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones teamed up and the film became a global success. The idea of an organisation fighting aliens was a clever one and the film had enough clever lines and situations to make it a semi-cult film. The 2002 and 2012 sequels were no great shakes and agents J and K had to be retired.

Chris Hemsworth and Tessa Thompson were charming in Thor:Ragnarok and it is their chemistry which is effective here as well and saves the day – but otherwise, the film has as much charm as a dead rat.

Thompson plays Molly – as a kid, she used to read Stephen Hawkins’ A Brief History of Time and she saved a cute little alien from being caught. Meanwhile, Agents High T (Liam Neeson) and H (Hemsworth) and proving their worth in the MiB by facing an attack by the evil Hive in Paris, right next to the famed tower.

A grown up Molly has a certain fascination for aliens and all things connected, and wants to be a part of the elite organisation headed by Agent O (Emma Thompson). Like in X-Men recently, a point is made about the women in MiB.

Once the characters are in place, it all goes downhill because there isn’t an appropriate plot to take things forward. The only interpretation of the word International in the title is that there is an encounter with aliens in different cities around the
world.

Neither the action nor the CGI scenes have any zing to it as the film trudges towards a lame finale and even though it has a bunch of talented actors, they can’t really save this film. It is time for MiB to take a break – maybe a permanent one.

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