12th Man which has been released exclusively on OTT is the latest one from the Mohanlal – Jeethu Joseph combo of the Drishyam franchise fame. So, naturally a certain sense of expectation precedes the release. Having demonstrated that Drishyam-1 was not a fluke by making an equally engaging Drishyam -2, Jeethu had upped the ante for himself. With this in perspective, how does 12th Man fair?
In terms of theme, 12th Man follows the murder mystery/investigation thriller genre which is Jeethu’s forte. The difference is the setting and the story telling style. The whole film happens in one night when a group of 11 folks who are friends and life partners meet for a get together in a distant resort. The occasion is portrayed as a bachelor party before the marriage of one of the friends.
Mohanlal is the 12th man who, as the police officer staying in the same resort dons the role of the investigating officer. Obviously, this means that something goes wrong in the midst of the get together that leads to a death. Now, the circumstances that lead to the death of one of the members of the group can be termed bizarre but that’s what happens. The group gets into a strange game with their mobile phones that turn things topsy-turvy. This movie should have been called 13th Man and that 13th character would be the mobile phone. All confusions and later the investigation and cracking the mystery… all happens through the mobile phone.
While the story line is novel, the screenplay lacked intensity needed for this genre. There are slow burn thrillers that also work but here, with the film set in just one location and constantly going around the 12 characters, it fails to retain our attention. The cast including Mohanlal for whom this is a walk in the park role, do their job diligently but the script doesn’t give any opportunity by which we can relate to any of them. The alluding to the actual culprit goes around like passing the parcel game by the end of which we crave for “The End”. By the way, is there a Malayalam film these days without Saiju Kurup in the cast??
The film’s length could have been shorter. The initial portions involving Mohanlal seem frivolous without adding much to his characterisation. The lighting and mood setting through some intelligent camerawork are the highlights of the film.
12th Man is clearly a “lockdown” film written to just get a quickie done despite all the restrictions. Obviously, it’s made with low budgets in one location with the script not demanding high production values. Viewing from that perspective it is not a bad film that can be watched once but, keeping aside any pretensions of another Drishyam. You can catch it on Disney Hotstar. And beware of the smart phone!