Review – Take Off (2017) .. Mahesh Narayanan’s directorial debut is confident & captivating! (7.5/10)

It all goes back to the saying.. the backbone of any film lies in the script and its treatment. In ‘Take Off’, editor-turned director Mahesh Narayanan presents the ordeal of a group of Keralite nurses stranded in the city of Tikrit, Iraq at the time when ISIS militants took over its reigns. Mahesh centers his story around Sameera (played by a brilliantly nuanced Parvathy) and certain characters who walk in and out of her life. Two things that warrant applause apart from the screenplay are the spot-on casting and excellent performances.

Almost the entire first half is spent portraying the decisive evolution of the lead characters. The viewer learns about Sameera’s traits, her family backdrop and the circumstances that coax her to become a divorcee and take up a job in Iraq. Kunchacko Boban displays great maturity in delivering an utterly grounded performance, ably supporting Parvathy. Asif Ali is also present in a cameo, and does his part well. The interval block is executed pretty well. The film dives into thriller mode soonafter. That’s also when Fahadh Faasil’s character (an Indian Ambassador) enters the scene. As Manoj Abraham, he exudes confidence and turns out to be a show-stopper on multiple instances.

The physical and psychological torment faced by the victims are divulged with absolute honesty and in thoroughly-gripping fashion. The original background score by Gopi Sunder suits the tensive mood of the film. Cinematography by Sanu Varghese is commendable and adds a dash of realism to the exquisitely rich frames. Blood and sand aren’t exactly the most pleasing sights to look at, yet Sanu and director Mahesh ensure that they have an enthralling story to narrate, even with their inclusion in heavy dosage. There are certain standout scenes that keep lingering in the viewer’s mind long after they leave the cinema hall..such as the one where Sameera meets Manoj to discuss the update on her husband’s whereabouts..and the sequence where she breaks down while conversing with him over the phone. The climax is devoid of major edge-of-the-seat moments, still ends up being one of the most satisfying Malayalam movie experiences in recent memory.

The production design definitely draws parallels to its much costlier Bollywood counterpart, last year’s Akshay Kumar starrer ‘AirLift’. That movie attempted to depict the evacuation of Kuwait-based Indians as a one-man show with much lesser emotional pay-off. Here, the viewer is literally placed in the midst of all the psychological trauma faced by those strong-willed individuals who are coerced into compromising their remuneration and religious beliefs in order to stay alive; the emotional element integrated seamlessly into each and every aspect of the film. If there is still a notable drawback to speak of, it could be the way in which a couple of bomb-blast sequences are executed with the help of not-so-great C.G.I (still a harrowing factor in Malayalam films). Thankfully, this flick does not have to depend too much on computer-generated effects, and hence, even this minor snag can be conveniently absolved.

Benefiting from a riveting screenplay coupled with passionate performances, ‘Take Off’ also boasts of overall technical perfection and slick production values that make it stand out from the rest of the clutter by a wide margin. For once, the hype paid off. Awaiting your next, Mahesh!

Recommended? An emphatic YES!

Watch the trailer here:

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