Vivegam, director Siva's third outing with Ajith, is more of a spectacle and less of a film. If you can accept that and stop worrying about the story and why you know so little about any of the characters, you might...just might...be able to sit through it.
Without a doubt, the film is all about its star Ajith. Siva might have meant well but he does the actor no justice by burdening him with excruciating punch-lines and sunglasses that hide his expressions most times. As Counter Terrorist agent AK, Ajith doesn't get to speak, he only makes speeches. Either existential ones like 'Who am I?' before shooting people in the head or flowery lines addressed to his wife Yazhini (Kajal Aggarwal).
One can see the script straining to balance the high-octane action sequences with "emotions". Yazhini doesn't just have an exceptional pathi, she has a telepathi who appears out of thin air to save her from every crisis - whether that's kitchen related or life and death. Write down 'Will answer wife's phone call even if I'm hanging from a tree, close to death' for husband goals, boys.
These husband-wife scenes are written with such deliberateness that they kill any kind of chemistry that the actors would have developed if only they'd been allowed to speak like regular human beings. Kajal alternates between ecstasy and tears and is also given a near comic sequence where she's singing a song while her husband is fighting his enemy. I was reminded of Paravai Muniamma's Madurai Veeran from Dhool.
Though Siva takes us country hopping in Europe, almost everyone in the film speaks and understands Tamil, including AK's international team and guests at a fully white wedding. Are they speaking in Tamil for the audience to understand the film better? If so, why give them such weird and annoying accents? And why include Karunakaran as an Albanian-Tamil translator?!
One wishes Siva had situated Vivegam in Tamil Nadu - how much nicer it would have been to see the labels 'Madurai gangsters' and 'Salem gangsters' appear on screen when they're rushing to attack AK instead of the 'Italian gangsters' and 'Russian gangsters' (an assortment of random white people) we're shown! Slip-ups like a supposedly international agent pronouncing 'earthquake' as 'earth quack' would have been more forgivable if the agent was part of the local police. We'd have bought it as a touch of realism.
Having bitten off more than he can chew, Siva proceeds to make a mess out of the plot. Akshara Haasan gets a bunch of scenes as Natasha, an orphan-hacker. She's gone before you understand what she's doing in the film although one must say that her hairstyle is quite fetching.
That Vivek Oberoi plays the antagonist was a fact nobody bothered to hide before the film released - it was in almost every pre-release article about Vivegam. So, when AK realises that his buddy and teammate, Aryan (Vivek Oberoi) has been backstabbing him, it comes as a surprise only to him. As for the whys and hows, the film isn't interested in providing us satisfactory answers.
The conversations between AK and Aryan are plain boring. The two of them sound exactly the same in tone and say nothing that's of import. We're shown a VFX generated giant chess board to illustrate their moves - here's one time when 'showing' and not 'telling' wasn't such a good idea. Also, what was the point of showing an eagle bird when Aryan talks about a phoenix bird?
Though the characters are fond of speechifying at gunpoint, the rest of the film is such a rush. You barely register what has happened before AK is blowing people's heads off. I'm in two minds if Anirudh's background music is a plus or minus for the film. On the one hand, it is extremely loud but on the other hand, it's possibly only the music that keeps the film moving in the absence of a plot.
Some of the visuals are truly stunning, especially the fight sequences which have been choreographed quite well. Ajith is in his elements while performing stunts - the one on the bike is sure to compensate his fans for the rest of the insipidity that Siva has handed to him.
Vivegam is like a circus - it has a bunch of talented performers pulling off gravity defying stunts in separate acts that are written to make the crowd clap as soon as each ends. But that's all.