Mercury: A Tragic, Thought-provoking and Poetic Thriller
Movie Review by Trijai Nerthi (Rocheston Certified Movie Critic)
Directed by Karthik Subbaraj, Mercury is a film that beautifully transcends across many genres. It is a thriller with imagination. But in the second half, this thriller mellifluously metamorphoses into an emotional drama. The plot of the film is straightforward and the format of the story too is nothing one hasn’t seen before. But the direction Mercury takes and the manner in which it handles these plot twists are quite extraordinary. The film isn’t without faults but flaws can be overlooked in a tale that is weaved with such play with the dark and light that it almost becomes a poem.
After their school reunion, five twenty something gang of youngsters (Indhuja, Sananth Reddy, Shashank Purushotham, Deepak Paramesh, Anish Padmanabhan) gather at a hill station to celebrate their friend’s birthday. All is fun and games till one of them suggest they go on a midnight drive into the mountains. On their way back, things take a turn for the worse when they accidentally run over a man who ends up dead on inspection. To escape the crutches of the Police they quickly dump the body nearby and flee the scene. The next day, circumstances force them to revisit the scene. On reaching, they discover the body missing. The consequences that follow their hit and run and their efforts to survive the monstrous night ahead of them form the crux of the story.
Whether it’s Jigarthanda or Iraivi, Director Subbaraj’s films have always explored multiple genres, in this aspect, Mercury is the same too. As the plot unravels, you wonder why the director has chosen such a straightforward manner to tell his story this time around. But as you get closer to the end, you realize this straightforward approach is necessary to incorporate the many issues and emotions he tries to address with the film.
Initially, Mercury takes after the template of many mainstream Hollywood horror films like I Know What You Did Last Summer; A happy go-lucky gang, a gruesome murder, a hurried cover-up and an unexpected threat. This is the same tried and tested format Subbaraj sticks to. But the magic happens when he envelopes this ordinary narration in plot twists that are quite extraordinary.
If you think about it, After Pisasu, Mercury is the only film in Tamil Cinema that dares to go beyond just conventional thrills and chills. It is clearly made by a director who thoroughly enjoys and is excited by the film language and its multitude of possibilities. For instance, in one scene, it feels like all hope is lost. This is when Indhuja’s character tries to establish a bond with Prabhu Deva’s character. Every so often, you are so used to viewing the antagonists as purely evil that you forget that at their core, they’re humans too. This moment diminishes the characters grey area as he empathizes with Indhuja’s story. This scene breaks the notions of an antagonist versus protagonist formula that storytelling supposedly thrives on. Instead, it makes you realizes that there are no out and out bad guys here. It is just their circumstances that force them to develop a grey area. The manner in which Subbaraj conveys this message is poetic.
Before its metamorphosis, Mercury works well as a thriller too. It isn’t jam packed with suspense. But the little spine-chilling moments that sneak up on you are executed remarkably. Take for instance the 180 degree shot in which Prabhu Deva is shown reaching for an object but the cinematographer gradually reveals what else he is seen holding on to. Many such moments involving the gang tip-toeing around the abandoned Corporate Earth factory is quite thrilling.
The geography Subbaraj chooses to set his film in is beyond intriguing. He uses tremendous amounts of imagination to base a predominant part of the cat and mouse chase in Mercury at an abandoned factory. Considering the fact that this is a silent film, this geography provides the sound engineer with ample scope for innovative and enthralling sounds. Whether it’s the pitter-patter of the chemicals or the instant thud of the machinery, every sound brings about panic in the audience.
The one aspect that seems out of place in Mercury is its climax. The melodramatic length the story goes to in order to spell out its message is unbecoming especially when it comes from a director who has been a master at establishing wonderful metaphors. Many such innovative metaphors alone have already conveyed the message in Mercury. But Subbaraj spoils the subtlety of the screenplay by trying to re-establish it in the end. This is the only disappointing aspect in the film. Resorting to such conventional ways of invoking emotions is a very un-Subbaraj way to end a film that is otherwise incredibly moving.
Sananth Reddy and Indhuja are solid performers. Indhuja is especially brilliant while showcasing her character’s vulnerability. But Prabhu Deva steals the show undoubtedly. The Deva you saw in Minsaara Kanavu is back and how. He brings alive the same volatile blend of emotions that made him such a fine actor in the first place.
Cinematographer S. Tirru and Director Karthik Subbaraj make quite the team. They are the reason why Mercury proves to be cathartic in places. Not a frame is dull and neither is it ordinary. From the soulless premises of the factory to the mountains under moonlight, Tirru’s mastery is quite admirable.
Santhosh Narayanan’s scores lends life to the emotions Subbaraj tries to bring alive with his story. His music proves to be powerful in a tale that is just as competent.
On the whole, Mercury is poetry. Dark, sweet, light and tragic poetry that weaves together a tale that is thoroughly intriguing. If you’re looking for the perfect summer film, this is it.