Game Over review: Knockout Taapsee leads this killer thriller

Game Over

Is it possible to feel horror-struck and uplifted at the same time? Director Ashwin Saravanan’s Game Over is a rare thriller to offer both scares and soul in its 103 minutes duration.

Some of the darkest thoughts and deepest fears manifest into the spine-chilling core of Game Over, a film that speaks as strongly as it feels. And I don’t mean dialogue, there is very little of that in the Hindi-dubbed version, also releasing in Tamil and Telugu, I saw anyway.

Intensely conscious of society’s most burning issues concerning safety of women and the disturbing degree of violence they are subjected to, Saravanan’s film may seem like an unexpected source of empowerment.

But the unflinching black and white tone of its gruesome action while combining a social issue into a sinister home invasion premise around ingenious new tropes creates a potent allegory for the times we live in.

As the title suggests, the fundamentals of video gaming dominate the visible texture and underlying metaphors of Game Over. Right from the joystick within a pixelated heart tattooed on her forearm to the arcade gaming knickknacks dominating her sprawling interior, Saravanan amply underscores its central protagonist Swapna’s (Taapsee Pannu) identity as a work-from-home video game creator.

Against Swapna’s Pac Man obsession, fear of dark spaces and recurring flashes of a scarring episode emerges a girl in a limbo.

Her past, only addressed in fits and starts, shows enough strains to justify her extreme dependency on caretaker Kalamma (a benign Vinothini) as her sole support system. She even accompanies her to the shrink. The natural ease of their bond is not enough to make the misogyny she regularly encounters — in hushed tones and sick downloads — any less hard to stomach.

Only now there’s a serial killer on the loose and a girl, surely when confined to a wheelchair, cannot be safe. For some time though, Game Over holds off its scenes of brutal confrontation to focus on her emotional meltdown.

I loved how Saravanan found a moment of irony in a faceoff between dread and death in Swapna’s confusion over fighting life versus fighting fear. Once the third act kicks in, the ferocity is unrelenting. My mouth stayed wide open all the time and the ominous images that follow refused to let me sleep later in the night.

Torment is part of its appeal.

Every little detail captured in A Vasanth’s smooth, sly camera — the time, the tattoo, the photographs, the quotes, the notes, the notifications — are links to the endgame. The film ensures you to take notice but retains its suspense.

Full of eerie little twists and judicious jump scares, Game Over‘s love for headlong offensives makes itself known right in the beginning following a terrifying prelude.

Using darkness and sound as influential mediums is the prerogative of any horror and the cinematography powered by Ron Ethan Yohann’s excellent, panic attack prompting background score understands and executes it masterfully.

Timing is a beauty here. As is the writing — steady, on its toes, undaunted and only gently sentimental. No flab, no bones, there’s nothing extra about Game Over. Or predictable. There are instances I was reminded of Psycho, Predator, Source Code and Hereditary, but only in context of genre-meets-genius.

Game Over is a nifty piece of work that recognises the durability of meaningful entertainment. Its feminist breakthroughs may not always seem practical, but its ‘fight back’ gusto had my vote.

Mostly because it is conveyed in Taapsee Panu’s dazzling show of tough and tender. Movies like Game Over count on their leading player to make us feel the extent of their agony and anxiety. Every bombshell, every gasp, every drop of blood, every bit of quick thinking, you must feel what they feel. And Taapsee plays every bit the PRO.

This review was first published on rediff.com.

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