Malik is more than just an epic crime film. It is a story of friendships turned sour, of greed and its impact on humanity, and most importantly, of morality and practicality. It is truly a masterclass by writer and director Mahesh Narayanan on blending so many underlying themes into one single film without making a mess of the story.
The film opens with a 13-minute one-take sequence where we are introduced to Sulaiman Ali (played by Fahadh Faasil), hereafter known as Ali Ikka, and his fractured world set in Ramadapally. Narayanan beautifully depicts the dichotomy of Ali Ikka's world, as a patriarchal figure respected by one and all, and as a fading middle-aged man surrounded by pain and betrayal. This is further amplified by cinematographer Sanu Varughese's camera movements, which constantly draw comparisons between the different shades of Ali Ikka. As he is about to set out for the Hajj, he is warned about the possible risk it poses to his life if he steps out of the house, to which he calmly replies, "I have quit all my ungodly work. Whom should I be afraid of now?" Yet, there seems to be a looming sense of doubt in his mind that the threat is possibly real. On one hand, he wants to let go and lead a quiet and peaceful life with his family. On the other, his people still need his support to stand up for themselves.
Ali Ikka, while being a man willing to cross the line between right and wrong for the greater good, is aware of the circumstances he must face for his decisions. As he matures with age, there is still a bit of his innocent self, who craves his mother's attention (played by Jalaja). He longs to make amends with her despite knowing that she might never forgive him for his ways. What could easily have been shown as a jarringly awkward relationship is beautifully depicted as a relation that has fractured beyond repair over time.
At the core of Malik lies a story of friendship that gets marred by jealousy and greed. Vinay Forrt as David, Dileesh Pothan as Aboobacker and Dinesh Prabhakar as Peter put forth strong performances. Watch out for David's arc, as he descends from someone whom Ali Ikka could blindly trust to a pawn used to cause mass destruction. Joju George as collector Anwar Ali acts as a catalyst in manifesting the division between the communities staying at Ramadapally. For him, David's scars are nothing but weapons that can be wielded against Ali Ikka to mar his rise to prominence.
Amidst all of the chaos, it is Roselyn (played by Nimisha Sajayan) who sticks with Ali Ikka through thick and thin. Rather than becoming a damsel in distress and helpless in times of crisis, she shows resilience and goes to lengths to protect him from any danger. There are moments when she actually outshines Ali Ikka with her street-smartness. For example, when Ali Ikka and the group decide to sell smuggled perfume to the public, he is not only unaware of the actual price of it, he's also unaware of the fact that a ladies' perfume exists. It seems that Roselyn is a reflection of Ali Ikka's innocence and humanity, which is why they complement each other so well. This is celebrated through the song "Theerame" as they get married at Minicoy.
The film adopts a Rashomon-esque narrative style presenting multiple perspectives on a personality like Ali Ikka. In the end, Narayanan leaves it to the audience to decide whether he was a messiah or a villain for Ramadapally. There are times where we feel as conflicted as Freddy (played by Sanal Aman), David's son, who is assigned to kill Ali Ikka. He is a representation of the youth of today, who are constantly trampled, and, in the end, gets misguided in the war between "our people" and "their people". This conflict is further enhanced by the music of Sushin Shyam. Through the background score, Shyam manages to capture Ali Ikka's gloriousness and the grimness of his actions.
Malik is an epic saga that runs for approximately two hours and forty minutes. It seems that Narayanan deliberately kept this length so that the audience could soak in the harsh reality we are living in. In a way, it urges us to take action to restore the harmonious world we long for.