The core element in Cold Case is a mystery or more specifically, terror laced with a crime.
Tanu Balak's directorial debut, Cold Case, the latest Malayalam original from Amazon Prime Video, has chosen to narrate a story that has the thrill of an investigation against a crime in a life and death situation.
It is a part investigative thriller, and a part crime thriller with elements of a horror film. The setup, as one might have assumed from the trailer and teaser, makes a really compelling case.
Without much delay, we are introduced to journalist Medha Padmaja, a character played by Aditi Balan. After a futile marriage, Medha, separated from her husband with a little kid, decides to shift to a new house. Medha experiences paranormal incidents and feels a mysterious presence at the house. In a parallel story, in another part of the city, a fisherman discovers a skull in a bag and the case is probed by an investigation team headed by ACP Satyajith played by Prithviraj.
As Satyajith begins to unravel the mysteries behind the murder, Medha gets certain revelations too.
The initial momentum is balanced well with a watered-down version of the Rashomon effect, with different versions of the murder case. While logic plays a part on one side, faith forms the crux at the other end.
In a vast majority of films with supernatural elements, a character’s background information is easily offered through dream sequences or confessions, in order to justify and give more context to the evil.
In Cold Case, that kind of exhibition is counterproductive and practically anticlimactic. The mystery is what matters here, and the audience is left wanting to help solve the case.
The director and writer Sreenath V Nath give the viewers something familiar to recognize but subvert expectations by giving them something new to be excited about. The storytelling draws references from a few other crime thrillers as it shuttles between the crime and the reason for it.
The blending of horror and investigation had a smart approach matched by spooky sounds and an eerie background score by Prakash Alex, consisting of instrumental tones aptly justifying the hybrid genre. While the investigation track is solid enough, certain horror moments creates the right suspense too.
The performances are uniformly solid. Prithviraj is a restrained performer and in Cold Case his body language is pitch-perfect. His presence lends heft to the proceedings.
Aditi Balan displays immense growth as an actor. Suchithra Pillai, within her limited time as Zaara Zakai owns every frame with her mysterious charm. One also needs to mention late actor Anil Nedumangad's controlled acting.
Gireesh Gangadharan's cinematography is a standout. The delicate framing with the detailing gives the right vibe. Even impressionistic vignettes of unusual moments are dwelt upon--when Medha checks out the new house, the doors, the lights, the well -- sets up the atmosphere. And even as she leaves her own house -- we tend to think that the clues are being left behind.
Without being sombre, Cold Case stylizes the police procedures by muting out elements of a mainstream cop movie and replaces it with paranormal factors.
Cold Case is a simple rare treat, a film that is compelling and engaging till the very end.