Director: B Unnikrishnan
Cast: Mammootty, Aishwarya Lekshmi, Amala Paul
There are long 30-minute stretches in Christopher where you’re simply waiting for the inevitable. The boundaries have been drawn, the characters have been explained and there’s only one final destination the film has been building up to. This is exactly what ends up happening finally but somewhere during these parts is when you realise how Christopher has invented a nice little trick to incorporate more female characters into the mainstream superstar saviour movie.
But before we get there, it's important to understand why Christopher remains yet another superstar saviour movie. The caption for the film describes itself as the autobiography of a vigilante police officer. It sounds reasonably interesting when you’re trying to merge the classic super-cop movie with elements of the superhero movie. This includes a dark flashback to show why Christopher is so connected to the central cause, a certain madness that makes him who he is and the vigilante part where he shows up at the most perfect of places even without his superhero costume—the khakhi, given how he has been suspended.
The central theme has got to do with how he takes out offenders who commit sexual assault, yet his mode as a “vigilante” is obviously extra judicial. This is the problematic aspect of the film that is even bigger than its dullness. It’s been months since films like Jana Gana Mana (2022) pointed the finger at the audience for supporting glorified encounter-killing scenes, but Christopher chooses to undo all those steps forward when it continues to talk about the failure of the system and the need for extra judicial murders.
At least on the surface, you feel like giving the film a little room to make its case (again for the hundredth time) when it underlines the fact that the central character is a morally ambiguous vigilante. But you understand pretty soon that this too is another lofty term being used in the wrong context. Not only does it remain unbelievable how Christopher has been able to get away for so many years for killing so many people but it is also funny how there’s almost no stealth, intelligence or cleverness in his extra judicial pursuits.
The fact that he’s a social media superstar, familiar to everyone in his state, makes the case for a vigilante sound even sillier. But what makes the film appear so flat is how not a single character has any life of their own. This includes Christopher himself being played by Mammootty who is unable to give him any interiority or depth. We get several lines describing Christopher’s madness especially when someone he loves gets hurt. But these are still just lines that add nothing to how we perceive the man. On paper, I feel he was meant to be a cold, distant man toughened by lifelong sadness, but he comes across as simply plain and uninterested.
This is when we come back to the initial point of how the film tries to do something new within this saviour complex. The fact that such a trigger happy cop will either save or avenge every victim is understood from scene one, but Christopher is also a film in which almost every other character, except the protagonist and the villains, are women. They are played by actors like Aishwarya Lekshmi, Amala Paul and Sneha (Mammotty’s heroine from the same director’s Pramani) and they appear in strong posts like that of a journalist, a senior police officer and the Home Secretary. Even if these characters aren’t well-written, it is at least a novel way to give us the impression that a film about women’s issues are also being handled by several women. Add to this the way the film uses these characters to create twists and you can see better-written films employing this trick to reinvent the male saviour movie.
Apart from this one silver lining and Jakes Bejoy’s catchy theme for Christopher’s entry, there’s hardly a scene that remains memorable. If crazy camera angles, unimaginative use of the Bolt robotic camera and the use of English dialogues could make a filmmaker’s style appear fresh and contemporary then Christopher would have been enough. But what we get here is a film so dated in its ideas and execution that you feel like patting yourself on the back three times, just like Christopher does, to remind you how much you’ve outgrown lines like “If you are Trimurti, I’m your Samharamurti”.