M Padmakumar's Joseph is an investigative thriller, a popular genre which has given us many memorable films when executed well. It's a dream opportunity for 'Minimon' Joju George, who has so far excelled in supporting roles; and he takes up the challenge admirably. Throughout the film, Joju is given superstar treatment, right from the introduction sequence to how everyone around him is in awe of his prowess. Even before he steps into the frame, we know of his legacy and with a few deft strokes, Padmakumar gives us a good idea about who Joseph is and what he's capable of.
He's the kind of guy who has a glass of alcohol and cigarette before brushing his teeth. A loner who moves slowly like a large animal but is swift when he's on the hunt. The first chapter hoodwinks you into thinking this is the murder Joseph is going to be investigating, but the crime is solved in a matter of minutes. Unlike Sethurama Iyer from Oru CBI Diary Kurippu who does 'dummy to dummy' experiments, Joseph only needs to look to pick up cues. He's that good. But despite the set-up, the narrative doesn't feel hyperbolic.
Joseph isn't only an investigative thriller though, it also wants us to know what sort of man our Sherlock Holmes is. It initially feels like a drag when we're told about Joseph's past romance (Madhuri Braganza) but there's a reason why these bits of story are given to us. What I liked best about the film is that it doesn't shy away from the grisliness of police work - the men who clean up after a dead body casually wash their bloodied hands and proceed for a drink, a woman lying dead for days has a maggot infested wound on her arm, her limbs bloated by decay. Somehow, the gaze of the camera (Manesh Madhavan) doesn't feel ghoulish.
Dileesh Pothan is excellent as the current husband of Joseph's ex wife (Aathmiya). The relationship between the two men is awkward yet respectful – something rare to see on the big screen where women are portrayed as bones of contention between men.
The final sequence felt a bit overboard to me and Joseph's final choice fell short of being entirely convincing. Without giving away major spoilers it's impossible to comment on the motive behind the crime, but suffice to say that it can have problematic repercussions in the medical field. The hurried courtroom scene with the two judges functioning as mere props could have been written and executed better. It feels way too old fashioned and Nedumudi Venu's cameo doesn't quite make an impact.
The songs, though pleasant on the ears, work as speed-breakers in what is otherwise a gripping screenplay. And why are Joseph's eyes blue-grey when he grows old? I thought there would be an explanation but it never comes.
Joseph is an engaging watch – and it's especially fun because its cast of supporting actors lends it an unpredictability that's difficult to summon in a big hero film.
Disclaimer: This review was not paid for or commissioned by anyone associated with the film. Neither TNM nor any of its reviewers have any sort of business relationship with the film's producers or any other members of its cast and crew.