Review Silent

Mercury review: Subbaraj's promising experiment turns out to be a disappointing apology

Cinestaan Rating

Release Date: 13 Apr 2018 / Rated: U / 01hr 48min

Shriram Iyengar

While the cinematography, concept, and plot structure impress, it is the flawed execution that turns the film into another disappointing wannabe thriller. 

It was smart of the makers to promote Karthik Subbaraj’s film as a ‘no language’ film. At the least, it would pardon them of any attempts to mislead the audience. Subbaraj’s film eschews words, and language to attempt to depict a story only through action. The problem, however, lies in the objective of his storyline.

The film has several elements which are novel. Beginning with the tale of five deaf and mute characters (whose names are never revealed), the film starts in anything but silence. On the annual day of their charity school for the deaf and mute, Hope, the five alumni (Sananth Reddy, Deepak Paramesh, Shashank Purushotham, Anish Padmanabhan, Indhuja) are celebrating. They are among the many children who were affected by mercury poisoning caused by a factor, Corporate Earth. Of the five two (Sananth Reddy and Indhuja) are childhood sweethearts finally proposing to each other.

To celebrate the special moment, the group decides to take a cathartic midnight drive to the desolate locales of Corporate Earth. Except, drunk and high, they accidentally run over a man (Prabhu Deva). Panic-stricken, they take the body back to the factory to dump it. It is a mistake that haunts them and hunts them one by one.

Subbaraj’s film stands on top of a well-constructed plot. Structured like a five-act play, albeit with a disappointing denouement, the film has a flowing narrative. It also has an interesting concept going for it - silence. The film arrives in the wake of John Krasinski’s highly acclaimed horror, A Quiet Place, which also highlights the theme of horror using the element of silence.

Where the director fails is in the outlining of the themes in his story. Straddling themes of supernatural horror, vengeance, redemption, and love, the film seems to be a mishmash stew of concepts. Although the themes are evenly divided across the story, they only serve to dilute its key USP - horror.

The soundtrack by Santosh Narayanan is another element that falters. While the film has no dialogues, it is not devoid of sound. In fact, sound seems to be a constant throughout the film. From loud crashing noises to the signature music tone acting as a plot point, the composer has embedded music throughout the film. However, it does not help it. The strength of terror lies in extending the silence and making it unbearable for the viewer. Sadly, this does not happen.

As for the horror itself, Subbaraj fails to extract the best out of his perfect protagonists. Nothing should drive the terror into an audience than the experience of being unable to hear death coming, or to scream for help. The acting, while competent, is not convincing. Once the impact of the first sight of Prabhu Deva’s undead mysterious creature fades, it seems to melt away into a series of extravagant mimes. The actor tries his best to imbue his ghastly character with terror, and manages well. Devoid of any dance, he does use movements, and a wonderful use of finger choreography to add different dimensions.

The trouble lies in the denouement of the story. The greatest horror movies, Psycho (1960), Silence Of The Lambs (1991), or the recent It (2017) succeed because of their unapologetic antagonists. It is here that Subbaraj’s environmental crusade dilutes his film. The flimsy denouement of the story arrives with a revelation that dilutes the entire terror of Prabhu Deva’s antagonist. At one point, the antagonist even apologises to a survivor.

Subbaraj’s knack for experimentation is well known, and he has another brave attempt in Mercury. However, it neither thrills nor impresses you with the end product.