2018 Everyone Is A Hero Malayalam Movie
In Theaters: INDIA
There is a notion that most disaster and survival movies are good pieces of escapism, despite being loud and bombastic. This is probably because the story and storytelling play second fiddle to the technical elements of such films. However, Jude Anthany Joseph's "2018" is an exception to that notion, both from a technical point of view and the canvas it encompasses. For the uninitiated, this is the story of the undying spirit of a state in an hour of crisis.
2018 is based on the real-life incident in the same year that left a good part of Kerala under water, caused many casualties, and wreaked great havoc. A calamity of this size hit the state almost a century ago, which explains how unimaginable it was for the people of the state. The first half of the film is a clever set-up with multiple storylines and characters. Jude jumps from one subplot to another at the slightest pretext and firmly establishes each. There is the story of a fishermen's family and the embarrassment they have to face for their so-called status. There is the plot of a military person who left the army and came back home, citing fake health reasons. A family man in the Middle East faces a possible marital crisis. A blue-collar worker from Tamil Nadu has to transfer a few boxes of explosives to keep his family afloat. And a travel agent faces his biggest hurdle as nature forces a near-lockdown-like situation.
The moment Jude establishes these subplots, it is easy to see where he is going with each storyline. This is not an act of criticism but rather a realization of how the genre works. To avoid spoilers, let us just say that most of the characters will be in the thick of the action once the calamity strikes. For a filmmaker and storyteller, it is nearly impossible to transcend these genre trappings, but Jude and his brilliant technical team pull off the unthinkable in terms of recreating the calamity while retaining the universal story of unity during a calamity.
The 2018 floods in Kerala were a reminder that real heroes come in flesh and blood, not in capes and masks. As a Keralite, you will go into the theater with this default sense of awareness and understanding of the story. This only makes it very challenging for the filmmaker to tell the story effectively, and boy do Jude and his team of technicians live up to the enormity of the task at hand!
For a small part of the film, I wondered whether it emphasizes the story of triumph a little more than that of tragedy. There are moments that make you go, "Surely, a calamity could not have been this triumphant". Wait for Jude to come back to the small stories he has already established early on in the film. When the subplots come full circle, so to speak, you understand why a character or group of characters behaves in a certain way at different points.
It is also the hallmark of a disaster film to make the audience feel scared for the lives of the characters. It is only until the scene where a woman gets airlifted that we even start to feel this way, and this is partly due to the structure of Jude's film. There is such good use of lighting, editing, music, and VFX here that it is easy to forget that the whole film is shot in a large film set. A drone shot of a man rowing away through a line of houses, partly covered under water, is so amazing that it belies the budget of Malayalam cinema. You can say that about the whole film, by the way.
Now, does this mean that 2018 is a perfect film? Probably not. Surely, Jude could have at least trimmed some storylines in the movie, although he achieves closure with each. But to give credit where credit is due, he does not exploit the real-life incident and tells the story in the film with a great deal of finesse.
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