Karthik Subbaraj’s Mercury: What Works, What Doesn’t 

There's lots to admire in Karthik Subbaraj's silent film, but ultimately it's a movie where the sum isn’t quite greater than its parts
Karthik Subbaraj’s Mercury: What Works, What Doesn’t 

Karthik Subbaraj ventures into uncharted territory again with Mercury, a film with no dialogues. The cast is led by Prabhu Deva in a never-seen-before avatar. It also stars promising young actors like Indhuja and Sananth. Subbaraj has ace technicians like composer Santhosh Narayanan, DoP Tirru and editor Vivek Harshan to support his vision. In Mercury, he transitions between genres (thriller, horror, emotional message movie) and delivers a film worth watching.

The Plot

Five friends, who are hearing and speech impaired, reunite for their school alumni meet in Kodaikanal. The friends have a blast and just when things seem like they're going well, they get involved in a road accident that changes their lives forever.

What Works 

  • Karthik Subbaraj has to be applauded for his audacity to make a film with no dialogues. His command over the craft is there for all to see. Despite the experimental format, he succeeds in emotionally involving the viewer. Subbaraj is among the few directors who gets a loud applause in theatres when his name is flashed on screen.
  • Composer Santhosh Narayanan has one of his best outings. In a movie with no dialogues, the composer is left with a lot of the heavy lifting, and Narayanan rises to the occasion. Be it the title credits score, the emotional scenes, the tender romance moments or the thrilling episodes inside the abandoned factory, his background score will suck you into the proceedings. Sound designer Kunal Rajan and the other sound technicians also deserve credit for making the film rich in atmospherics.
  • DoP Tirru presents some unforgettable night visuals of Kodaikanal. The love proposal scene in midnight moonlight amidst smoke and fog makes for fantastic viewing. Once the action shifts to the abandoned factory, Tirru has used a striking green, grungy visual tone. Art director SS Moorthy and production designer Satheesh Kumar do a great job with creating the factory setting.
  • Prabhu Deva carries a different body language and this is easily his most dramatic performance till date. That Karthik Subbaraj could imagine the ace dancer in such a role and also extract a convincing performance from him is commendable.
  • The expressive Indhuja is the best among the young actors. She is particularly impressive in the emotional scenes with Prabhu Deva. She also shares great chemistry with Sananth which makes the proposal scene come alive.

What Doesn't 

  • The thrills and jump scares after the action shifts to the factory don't have the desired shock factor.
  • One of the film's main revelations will remind you of other celebrated films like Don't Breathe and A Quiet Place.
  • Though the sign language used by the characters is supplemented by subtitles in most scenes, a key conversation towards the end is hard to fully comprehend without subtitles. The team shouldn't have overlooked this when they had included subtitles in the other communicative scenes. 
  • The film spells out a (well-intentioned) social message with facts and figures as its end credits roll, which feels forced and manipulative.

Final Word

Mercury is the kind of film where the sum isn't quite greater than the parts. It gains many brownie points over the course of its 1 hour 48 mins runtime but falls short of being a great film.

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