2018 Movie Review: Jude Anthany Joseph's 2018 is not a perfect film, yet it has a huge heart. A heart to celebrate humanity within ourselves, instead of seeking out non-existent faults to create further divisions. It's a film that doesn't do the job of a politician, instead it reiterates the importance of the values of brotherhood and shows how in dire circumstances, you don't need Balayya tricks to be a hero. 2018 is a film that is needed for the times to remind the audience the need to stand by your fellow human, more now than ever. The fact that it has an enviable cast led by the likes of Kunchacko Boban, Tovino Thomas, Asif Ali, Aparna Balamurali, Vineeth Sreenivasan among many others is just the icing on the cake. 2018 Movie Box Office: Tovino Thomas' Malayalam Film Rakes In Rs 9.17 Crore in Its Opening Weekend in Kerala – Reports.
Based on the tragic floods of Kerala during August 2018, majority of 2018 is set around a village called Aruvikkulam. The first half of the film goes around establishing the main and supporting characters. Prominent among them is Anoop (Tovino Thomas), a young man who ran away from the army and faces ridicule in his village. He is in love with the newly arrived school teacher Manju (Tanvi Ram).
Then there is Nixon (Asif Ali) who aspires to be a top model and is often at crossroads with his father Mathachan (Lal) and elder brother Winston (Narain) who are fishermen and aren't fans of his selected profession. Kunchacko Boban plays Shaji, who works in District Office in Alleppey. Aparna Balamurali plays Noora, a TV channel head covering Idukki dam opening and the flood situation in the state.
There is also Rameshan (Vineeth Sreenivasan), a Gulf expatriate whose marriage with Anu (Gauthami Nair) is on the rocks, and who has to rush back to Kerala after his mother has a nasty fall. Then we have Sethupathy (Kalaiyarasan), a Tamil truck driver who isn't fond of Keralites, emulating the thorny relationship his state has with Kerala over Mullaperiyar issue. Another important character is Koshy (Aju Varghese), a tourist cab driver who has to be a guide to a Polish couple. What happens to these characters and others around them during that fateful night of the heavy deluge, how they touch each others' lives in the process and how most of then turn out to be unexpected heroes when the need arises is what the rest of the plot details.
Watch the Trailer of 2018:
A good disaster thriller film needs to do two things right - first, it needs to make the viewer realise the scope and magnitude of the tragedy it is covering; secondly, it needs to make sure we care for the characters. On both the counts, Jude Anthany Joseph (who, I believe, also has a voice-cameo in the film) has done complete justice.
Malayalam film industry is not known for its exorbitant budgets and those films that proudly flaunt their big budgets often ring warning bells to the fans, eg Odiyan and Marakkar. 2018 faces a huge challenge in not having the kind of monetary backing that a film of this genre might need, but with some intelligent use of practical effects and smart filmmaking techniques, Jude Anthany Joseph not only makes sure that we never feel the film is lacking in recreating the disaster, but also allows us to feel the fear and the dread of what that night brought for the residents affected by the flood. The introductory scene of Lal and Narain's characters during a mid-sea rescue is one such sequence, even though not part of the floods sequences, that impresses technically while also raising goosebumps with its 'mass' impact without any added superheroisms. The fisherfolk were the unsung heroes during the flood evacuations and the movie treats them nothing less than in a space usually reserved for someone like a Mammootty or a Mohanlal.
Another sequence that highlights the scope of the disaster is where the character of Sudheesh and his family get trapped in their house. It is a terrifying, claustrophobic sequence that will leave you on the edge of the seat. Though I have to remind you that 2018 is not in the same vein as say, a Titanic or a Volcano; it is less about focussing more on the disaster aspects of the tragedy and more about the heroes that saved the day. And it is in the character moments where the film shines the most, even if not all the characters are given the same scope. There are moments that made my eyes well up, mostly in joy, for heartwarming scenes dished out here. The sequence where Matachan and Winston rouse up their folk to assist in evacuations is one such scene. Another scene is where Anoop take charge of a rescue situation and makes people around him, and above all, himself, realise that a true soldier doesn't need to be at the borders. It is moments like these which make 2018 quite a winner and a true Gandhian response to another propaganda film released on the very same Friday that falsely bemirsches the people of its state.
The movie also invokes a sense of evolved haplessness of residents living in low-lying areas, where a mixture of floods, tides and global warming are making it increasingly difficult to live through during the monsoons every year. And yet, the people have made the increasing water levels their living normal, which was nicely shown in the film without over-emphasising.
That said, not everything works in the favour of the film. I am not a big fan of some of the narrative framing that 2018 chooses, especially in the first half. After an extended prologue that leads to the opening of the shutter of Idukki dam, the movie jumps back a couple of weeks earlier. The idea is to flesh out the characters and their backstories, but I am not sure why the film didn't lead with it, and jumped back from a point where things were supposed to kick in. However, thanks to Jude Anthany Joseph's adept hand at framing feel-good narratives, it doesn't feel much of a dampener and the actors also manage to keep things engaging and lively.
The editing also doesn't exactly work its consistency throughout. An example of this is the demise of a major character in the climax. How the person actually died is shown in prologue in much detail later, but I believe it could have been more moving if the film had showed it in the climax itself and not waited for a couple of scenes later.
One more major grouse is that not all characters get much scope and clarity that you wonder why they were even needed in the film. Like for example, the tracks involving Vineeth Sreenivasan and Aju Varghese's. Sure, they symbolise segments of people affected by the floods but their arcs are mostly there to feed into others than be impactful on their own. The worst affected I feel was that of Aparna Balamurali's; she gets absolutely no scope in the second half of the film. Which is quite sad, since she was the one major female character who could have had an important role in the action and through her, the much maligned media (which the film also takes potshots at) could have sought some redemption. Even Kunchako Boban's character doesn't get much scope for a major impact. From Poochakkoru Mookuthi to Virus, 7 Times When Malayalam Cinema Handled Ensemble Multi-Narrative Movies in the Right Way!
Interestingly some of the actors like Boban, Tovino, Asif Ali, Indrans were also part of another fine offering from Malayalam industry's in the real-life disaster genre, Aashiq Abu's Virus. In that film, most of the characters -be it major or minor - were able to leave some sort of impact in their roles, which 2018 doesn't exactly live up to. That said, all the actors in 2018 are fantastic in their roles, though Tovino Thomas gets to shine the most thanks to a well-scoped character (a reminder that he also helped during the real-life supply and evacuations during the floods). Asif Ali is also quite good as the model who makes a 'homecoming' at the right moment, while Lal and Narain are fabulous. Kalaiyarasan works well with his predictable character arc. The rest of the sprawling ensemble lend enough credibility to their roles.
2018 is a heart-touching attempt to lionise the unsung heroics of the common man through one of the worst disasters Kerala has scene in the past few years (apart from COVID-19). It dares not attempt to politicise the tragedy, nor indulges in needless blame-games (though it points out lack of administrative foresight in not averting the tragedy), rather there is more of an attempt to impress upon the view the need for solidarity.
As someone from Kerala, I can use my bias to say that 2018 - even if it isn't as perfect that I wanted it to be - is the kind of 'Kerala Story', that I wish the rest of the nation would watch. While we are at it, also check out Virus and even Sajimon Prabhakar's Malayankunju, both fine 'disaster' films that are more applauding the triumphant spirit being human in the wake of death and destruction.
(The above story first appeared on LatestLY on May 26, 2023 04:10 PM IST. For more news and updates on politics, world, sports, entertainment and lifestyle, log on to our website latestly.com).