Cold Case Malayalam Movie Review
Prithviraj Sukumaran's Assistant Commissioner of Police, Sathyajith, and Aditi Balan's journalist Medha look into a mysterious set of events in Tanu Balak's directorial debut Cold Case. But there is a difference in the narration here: Sathyajith's and Medha's investigations with similar revelations happen in two different universes. In Sathyajith's universe, the events appear natural, like the appearance of a skull with an artificial tooth and that of a cut-off arm. However, in Medha's universe, the events are paranormal, such as moving appliances as well as an insect that appears in an odd place such as an ice cube.
Cold Case is not the first Malayalam thriller with a paranormal angle. Even the recent Nayanthara and Kunchacko Boban-starrer, Nizhal, has a similar element in terms of narration. But Cold Case is slightly different from all films that came out before it. Take the beginning of the movie, for instance. Most whodunit thrillers start with clues that would lead the officers involved to the killer. Conversely, Cold Case starts with parts cut off from a person's body that serve as hints to the victim's identity. Late Anil Nedumangad's cop character finds it an oddity, just like the audience. The movie shows how the main characters put together the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle, so to speak.
Cold Case has an interesting premise, but it does not quite work as a horror movie or a thriller. It is two genres that debutante director Tanu Balak tries to handle here, which comes with its own challenges. For instance, when trying to work up the scares in the horror universe, how would one build the thrills in the other scenario without undermining either universe's elements? Balak's limitations as a first-time director are evident here, even as his attempt to blend the two genres is not bad.
The most problematic parts of the film are in Medha's universe. A divorce seeker, and the mother of a girl, Medha works as a journalist who looks into real-life paranormal cases. So, everything in her life should seem quite out of the ordinary. That makes the director use familiar horror sequences, such as jump scares leading into a nightmare, a one-eyed doll, a dog freaking out, and a character looking into a deep well. The relevance of many of those scenes to the movie's story is questionable, but Balak mainly uses them as part of worldbuilding.
Parallel to the horror track is Sathyajit's no-nonsense investigation. While the horror track has too many red herrings, the police investigative part of the movie mostly stays away from those false clues. It is a procedural without an excessive number of phony suspense elements. Now, that may be commendable, but neither Balak nor writer Sreenath maintains the intrigue created in the earlier portions over the rest of the film. The most disappointing part of the film is the final act, which reminds us of a cracker that does not go off like how it should.
I am a sucker for both horror and whodunit thriller movies, but Cold Case is a cocktail without some key ingredients. A material like this offers the makers an opportunity to infuse humor into the proceedings, but laughs come only in the sporadic moments with Alencier Ley Lopez's Chandrabhanu. There is a serious tone throughout the film, which makes its labored pacing seem more labored than it already is.
The best thing about Cold Case is the sheer number of scientific terms it introduces to us. There is Suchitra Pillai's blind character with psychic visions, occasional mumbo jumbo, and interesting ideas like scrying. Not that it all matters in the ultimate analysis, though. What matter are that Pillai is well cast in a wonderfully wicked role, whereas Prithviraj and Aditi Balan do just what they are supposed to.