Director: Akhil Paul-Anas Khan
Cast: Tovino Thomas, Mamta Mohandas, Reba Monica John
Forensic, a close cousin of Anjaam Pathiraa, bills itself a scientific thriller. Sam (Tovino Thomas) is a forensic investigator working with cop Rithika (Mamta Mohandas) to solve a series of bizarre murders in Thiruvananthapuram. In an action thriller, you can see a protagonist move towards an external goal. In a psychological thriller like Anjaam Pathiraa, the ideas of Kunchacko Boban’s Anwar about criminal behavior are visually depicted through the serial murders. In Forensic, it is much harder to see Sam pursue the killer because the more interesting ‘action’ often happens in his head. His solutions are scientific. They need to be explained to us before we are impressed. This reduces a lot of the film’s excitement to a few punchlines.
The focus on forensics has minor payoffs, though. Sam uses his knowledge of the human body to cleverly administer a lie detector test to a heart patient. He infers the killer’s height using just logic and some measurements from the crime scene. He finds the killer by applying his knowledge of DNA chimerism. He even teaches an intern to rub off marker ink using coffee (it works due to acid-base interaction, he explains). Tovino Thomas plays Sam as an everyday, regular guy. Without some affectation of manner, though, it is difficult to see the character having great ideas. We just have his own word that they’re great.
The film often surprises by preferring a forensic test over a police investigation. Instead of interrogating a hundred people at a crime scene, Sam decides to test their DNA for a match. The intricate process of collecting and testing, though, is not depicted in a way that entertains. This is where the film often falters. There is drama in trying to guess the culprit during a routine police investigation. There’s little drama in looking at Sam’s team routinely collect used paper cups of suspects to run forensic tests, the results of which are simply read out to us. The results are interesting, but how can you sustain tension when your big ideas are verbal, packed away in bits of dialogue?
The film brings up the idea of child serial killers and presents some real-life examples. Why deal with such a serious idea superficially? Yes, the possibility does make the murders more intriguing. Often, aided by Jakes Bejoy’s chilling soundtrack, the possibility creates a deeply sinister mood. But, the writer-directors (Akhil Paul and Anas Khan) seem confused as to where to go with it. Probably not wanting to take it too far, they abruptly drop it in a way that makes it feel like a gimmick.
Most of the twists in the film are just surprises. A genuine twist is when the viewer is presented with all the facts and nudged to interpret them one way, before being pointed in the other direction. This must be organic, and not feel like something tacked on for shock value. In Forensic, twists are just pieces of information that are deliberately hidden, to be revealed later for a minor aha! moment. It plays a simple game of peekaboo with the viewer, tries too hard to compensate for the lack of sustained excitement, and, often, fails.