Abraham Ozler movie review: Midhun Manuel Thomas film is mostly a letdown, saved only by a revived Jayaram and You-Know-Who – The Indian Express

(Warning: This review contains spoilers) Our predecessors, the legends, used to say that comedy is the most challenging, both in writing and performing. True; it’s significantly harder to make someone laugh than to make them cry. However, in today’s era, it seems that pulling off the thriller genre is the most formidable task. The widespread exposure to films, shows, true crime podcasts and other content from around the world has enabled audiences to easily see through things and discern plot twists, thus making it challenging for filmmakers to captivate them with thrillers now.
Midhun Manuel Thomas’ Abraham Ozler, starring Jayaram in the titular role, can be dubbed as a crime thriller film that meets the essential criteria for the genre. At its centre is a top cop, Assistant Commissioner Abraham Ozler (Jayaram), who is haunted by the memories of a personal tragedy. A critical mistake by the otherwise impeccable officer results in the loss of his wife and daughter, plunging him into depression and chronic insomnia. While battling his inner demons, Ozler encounters a case where a young man is brutally murdered by someone who leaves behind not many clues except for a greeting card with a few words inscribed in Malayalam. As Ozler and his team delve into the investigation, they discover a pattern as more people fall victim to similar crimes, indicating a common perpetrator. Despite their efforts to unravel the mystery, obstacles impede their progress. Gradually, they piece together the puzzle, leading to startling revelations.
For Midhun Manuel Thomas, who took the state by storm with his psychological slasher thriller Anjaam Pathiraa (2020) and achieved success with the crime thriller Garudan and the romantic horror Phoenix in 2023, Abraham Ozler presented a formidable challenge, particularly due to the high expectations people had set for the film, compounded by it being considered a comeback vehicle for Jayaram. However, it’s not just that Ozler fails to live up to the hype; the film rarely rises above average at any point, much to the disappointment.
While “sharp cops grappling with personal tragedies” has become somewhat of a stereotype in Indian thrillers, with a recent example being Anurag Kashyap’s Kennedy, Ozler’s narrative fails to explore the depth of the character beyond the superficial. Despite the film establishing early on that Ozler wrestles with his past ghosts and mental health problems, these aspects are only occasionally addressed, seemingly when convenient.
While the film begins well, it’s hard to overlook the striking resemblance of the initial part to Anjaam Pathiraa, where Ozler visits a jail to converse with a ruthless criminal, akin to Dr Anwar Hussain’s (Kunchacko Boban) encounter with Ripper Ravi (Indrans), but not for the same reasons. As the film progresses, there’s anticipation about the upcoming investigation and discovering the real culprit, but each scene lacks the necessary punch. While the brilliance of an investigation thriller is in engaging the audiences actively in the probe, Ozler struggles to immerse viewers fully into the story, falling short of delivering that level of excitement. It also fails to convey the idea that the main cop is unravelling the mystery; instead, much of the movie gives the impression that everything is predetermined, and the characters are mere puppets, resulting in a lack of organic flow. Even the subplots feel forced and contribute minimally to fixing the flaws in the main plot of Randheer Krishnan’s script. The interactions between characters too sound disconnected from each other at times.
Moreover, it’s disheartening when the main cop’s aides exist only to pose enquiries, forcing the protagonist to clarify everything through dialogues, and/or state the obvious. Even here, there are two — SI Divya (Arya Salim) and Sijo (Senthil Krishna) — who essentially make virtually no meaningful contributions to the overall story.
Even during pivotal moments, such as the interval punch and the revelation of the actual culprit, the characters often fail to receive the elevation they deserve and instead, their impact is solely reliant on the respective actors’ stature.
short article insert Ultimately, the movie is redeemed by Jayaram’s commanding performance, showcasing a notable transformation after enduring setbacks in Malayalam cinema for several years. Despite the character’s flaws and poorly written nature, Jayaram successfully elevates the narrative and does justice to Ozler by portraying the raw, rugged and brooding cop with precision. Anaswara Rajan, although introduced late in the film, delivers an outstanding performance, notably soon after earning praise for Neru, and helps Ozler transcend its shortcomings to an extent.
Now the spoiler, which the makers had kept under wraps for an extended period, Mammootty’s appearance in the movie is likely to provide viewers with the excitement that Ozler lacked during its unnecessarily prolonged runtime of over 140 minutes. While he succeeds in portraying the character effectively, there is doubt about whether the role would have made a significant impact had it been played by another actor. From an uninteresting backstory to poorly developed motives and inadequately crafted dialogues, Mammootty’s character in Ozler lacks depth.
For director Midhun Manuel Thomas, Abraham Ozler is a step back in terms of the aesthetic and engaging qualities typically found in his movies, even those where he served only as the scriptwriter. Despite the film not being entirely devoid of high points, its overall lacklustre nature outweighs the occasional moments of excellence. Another notable letdown in the movie is Midhun Mukundan’s music, which fails to captivate at any point. Given that the background music is a crucial element in a thriller, Ozler’s soundtrack is notably disappointing.
While Theni Eswar ensures quality in the frames through cinematography that doesn’t strictly adhere to thriller conventions, the colouring department also makes a substantial contribution to the movie’s visual appeal, heightened by Shameer Muhammed’s exceptional editing. Arun Manohar’s costumes and Ronex Xavier’s makeup maintain a consistently sharp quality. Nevertheless, Mammootty’s costumes and makeup too appear somewhat bleak.
Abraham Ozler movie cast: Jayaram, Mammootty, Anaswara Rajan, Arjun Ashokan, Anoop Menon, Jagadish, Dileesh Pothan
Abraham Ozler movie director: Midhun Manuel Thomas
Abraham Ozler movie rating: 2.5 stars
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Anandu Suresh is a Senior sub-editor at Indian Express Online. He specialises in Malayalam cinema, but doesn't limit himself to it and explores various aspects of the art form. He also pens a column titled Cinema Anatomy, where he delves extensively into the diverse layers and dimensions of cinema, aiming to uncover deeper meanings and foster continuous discourse. Anandu previously worked with The New Indian Express' news desk in Hyderabad, Telangana. You can follow him on Twitter @anandu_suresh_ and write (or send movie recommendations) to him at anandu.suresh@indianexpress.com. … Read More

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