Mercury movie review: Karthik Subbaraj's silent horror-thriller is intriguing but ultimately doesn't add up

Udita Jhunjhunwala

April 12, 2018 13:51:26 IST


Writer-director Karthik Subbaraj’s (of Pizza, Jigarthanda fame) latest feature Mercury is an experimental, silent thriller. This silent world is one without speech – no dialogues with the cast using sign language.

This trick makes Mercury a language agnostic film, which, in turn, doubles the pressure for engagement and entertainment on the plot and performances.

As the title suggests, there is a connection between events, characters and mercury. Prolonged exposure to the heavy, silver-y element can lead to chemical poisoning and result in all kinds of damage, including impairment of speech, hearing and sight. Subbaraj does not delve much into the facts regarding this and loosely uses the idea of mercury poisoning, corporate corruption and negligence as the base for this atmospheric-dependent story.

Prabhudeva in Mercury.

A group of five friends is on a reunion weekend in a farm house in tea country. The four boys (Deepak Paramesh, Anish Padmanabhan, Sananth Reddy, Shashank Purushotham) and one girl (Indhuja) are alumni of a special school for the hearing impaired. The group communicates using sign language.

After a drinking and dancing session, the group heads off on a late night joyride through desolate winding roads. They express their anger and hatred at the gates of a dilapidated and sealed off factory unimaginatively named Corporate Earth. But then things go horribly wrong, setting them off on a dark and, possibly, fatal journey.

Mercury opens with the ominous words: “Silence is the most powerful scream”. Imagine being unable to hear warning signs or cry out for help.

While there is no speech, there are noises, music and sounds. To this end, the background score (Santhosh Narayanan) and sound design (Kunal Rajan) are critical to establishing and heightening the mood. Cinematographer S. Tirru captures the misty monsoonal hills and the rusty interiors of the factory where most of the macabre action unfolds. The set up is unhurried, but builds intrigue. The suspense hits fever pitch at half way point, with a critical reveal in the second half when the story leans heavily on action and violence.

The horror or thriller element follows the tropes – most of the events happen in the night, the area is desolate, remote, misty. The friends get separated, setting each one up for an individual, grisly experience. While this group is fairly resourceful, they are also not the brightest, making a series of unintelligent decisions.

The result of an absence of sub-titles is that once you have gotten the gist of a moment, you disengage from the characters and events on screen, especially in the first half hour. The young actors are convincing in their communication of joy, fear and camaraderie, but Prabhu Deva’s character is unclear and his rendition is comical at times.

It’s no spoiler to mention that Prabhu Deva plays a crucial role in the proceedings. His character is afflicted by mercury poisoning, but beyond that his motivations and his horrifying malevolence are superficially explained, just as Subbaraj does not deliver any sound comment on corporate negligence. One of the major problems with Mercury is that the story just does not stitch together.

Updated Date: Apr 12, 2018 14:01 PM