After a series of uninspiring films, director Priyadharshan returns to Malayalam cinema with a delicious cat and mouse thriller starring Mohanlal, Samuthirakani, Vimala Raman, Nedumudi Venu and others.
Mohanlal plays Jayaraman, a blind man who works as a lift operator in an apartment building. He's the go to guy for the people of the building, especially for ex Chief Justice, Krishnamoorthy (Nedumudi Venu), a man who is burdened by his past.
Krishnamoorthy knows that he is being hunted by someone who holds a grudge against him and Jayaraman becomes his confidante.
But soon, Jayaraman is embroiled in a crime that he did not commit and the police are in no mood to buy his story.
Mohanlal excels as the blind Jayaraman whose senses are always on the alert. He plays the role with dignity, without ever allowing the character to turn mawkish, even in the scenes where he's the target of police brutality. The fight sequence in which he employs his training in kalaripayattu is especially stunning even if the sudden show of supermanship is hard to believe.
The hilarious Mamukkoya appears as a confused and confusing security guard, providing release at the right moments. His guileless dialogue delivery and comic timing are impeccable. He belongs to the club of old-time Malayalam comedians who are unmatched in skill. For the same reason, one wishes that Innocent, another actor who rightfully belongs to that club, and who also appears in the film as Mohanlal's relative, had more to do but that's perhaps being too greedy.
Samuthirakani as the unstable Vasudevan is creepy and menacing but the narrative, unfortunately, does not give his role much depth other than a tragic history. In spite of that, he holds his own in his scenes with Mohanlal and that is no mean accomplishment.
Renji Panicker, Anusree, Chemban Vinod Jose, Kalabhavan Shajohn and Aju Varghese provide adequate support. Vimala Raman, as Devayani, is a weak link and the brief romance between her and Jayaraman appears contrived.
While "Oppam" keeps you interested till the end, the plot somewhat loses steam in the second half. The twists become predictable even as the actors encourage you to remain invested in the story. The end of the chase, therefore, isn't as powerful as it could have been.
Comparisons between "Oppam" and "Don't Breathe" are inevitable, seeing as they're both thrillers with blind men who are, at first prey and then turn predator. However, the two films follow completely different story arcs. "Oppam" isn't as lethal as "Don't Breathe" - which is a bit of a relief considering my nerves are still recovering from the tension induced by the latter - but it is nevertheless a well-executed film that is worth a watch.