12th Man Movie Review: A Sparkling Mohanlal Saves a Languid Murder Mystery


Title: 12th man

Movie director: Jethu Joseph

Star actors: Mohanlal, Unni Mukundan, Shivada, Anusree, Anu Mohan and others.

Broadcast platform: disney stars

Evaluation: 3.5/5

Review by: Arjun Menon

The film reiterates a pulpy, mainstream take on the curious detective story with a few minor flourishes that may or may not work depending on the value judgments one associates with this popular entertainment subgenre, only that it’s still harmless. in its dull appeal in its ideas.

Following the sensational success of last year’s streaming blockbuster Dhrishyam 2, we get yet another thriller from Jeethu Joseph with Mohanlal reprising the lead role with Disney Hotstar’s new release, 12th Man. There are a few directors whose name is associated with a particular genre of cinema that almost becomes a part of their director persona and oh boy Jeethu Joseph loves his murder mysteries and it shows! 12th Man is Agatha Christisqe’s standalone iteration of the post-pandemic single-location thriller, staying true to its storytelling underpinnings. We get a crime mystery that takes place in a confined environment over the course of a single night, with eleven possible suspects and a truth seeker willing to go the extra mile to illicit the mystery is hidden beneath a tired, frantic night of revelations and reverse.

The film is pretty much routine in its setup where we gather a group of friends at a remote resort in a hill station to celebrate the impending wedding of their last remaining bachelor and according to film traditions all hell breaks loose and the supposedly comfortable the evening turns sour and degenerates into a series of misadventures and misunderstandings. The script takes a considerable amount of time in the opening act to refresh the viewer on the character biographies and stories almost together and that’s the part where the movie instantly throws you off, with the clunky dialogue writing and flourishes. uninventive visuals.

Rookie writer Krishna Kumar delivers some of the worst scenic lines of Malayalam films in recent memory, which are rendered even more obsolete by the chill performances of the main cast, who approach the basic exposition with the detached sophistication of a quick set. set up a PowerPoint presentation. For example, we have a man who confesses over a few drinks his failed marriage to his girlfriend and ponders a possible situation if they had married instead in their youth. The scene works on a basic storyline level of scene structure with major character work being put in place.

The backgrounds and basic character stories are set together with the haste of quick snippets of bullet points designed to move each scene forward and establish context to build tension between the group of old friends. The staging of the scene, where the main characters begin to play the least imaginative game ever invented, somehow retraces the slightly derailed plot’s trajectory towards narrative balance and keeps the level of interest somewhat intact. Gambling forms the central conceit of the entire film where we get a group of friends reluctantly forced to divulge a path to each other’s private dealings and hidden identities.

Chandrasekhar (Mohanlal) is not a difficult role by any stretch of the imagination and Mohanlal sleeps through the interrogation and cartoon scenes with effortless charm. The director gives us a first look at our Hercule Poirot stand in a series of ill-conceived sequences that take up a lot of the first act’s time and never work as the character could have been introduced around the first act’s break as a regular outsider immersed in their horrible night. However, instead of forcefully writing important bits that were – there – written to present the hero as an alcoholic, the nuisance set out to ruin the reunion of all parties involved. The personal stakes are almost non-existent for our hero, forced by his particular situation to resume the investigation despite everything. It is, however, a universal model for this particular sub-genre of thrillers, modeled on Agatha Christhie’s famous formulas for unraveling deep and disturbing human interactions through the device of an economically staged crime. and its ensuing investigation within the same physical confines. , where everyone is a possible killer.

The rest of the supporting cast struggles to adapt to the changing moods of the interwoven storyline and relies on excessive theatrics and is at other times confined to creepy close-ups by the director. Among the cast’s array of performers, Shivada, Unni Mukundan, and Chandunath show glimpses of inner life and strive to give strictly one-note parts human attributes. The rest of the cast feel out of place with the film’s pitch and end up being mute spectators in the main man’s one-man show. The chain of illicit relationships and secret transactions weighs too heavily on the film’s narrative and sometimes even leads one to wonder if it was all worth the crime committed and its implications within the group. In no other film in recent memory, I recall seeing these many illicit relationship dynamics baked into the narrative as random, successive plot points with little introspection in the unexpected chains of deception.

Jeethu Joseph, if anything, should be applauded for introducing a particular aesthetic to the editing model of his films, where scene-to-scene sequences are creatively designed and implemented! This can be traced back to his earlier and most notable works like Memories and the two Dhrishyam films, where he uses airtight and innovative cut-points to maintain a sense of visual rhythm in the storytelling using the masked stitching of two scene transitions distinct that visually feels in perspective in its ability to reveal information and hide characters’ motivations. He uses this technique of frequent match cuts and stitches together his flashbacks and callbacks in such a way that the film looks and feels distinctive, even with mundane dialogue and operational exposition playing out in the background.

What’s new, then, is the strong fabric that binds a cohesive cinematic thrust down to the very last frame and the film works in most cases in this regard.

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Check out the 12th Man trailer below:


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