“Virus”… A superbly crafted, and very human, medical thriller

Posted on June 11, 2019


Spoilers ahead…

Read the full review on Film Companion, here: https://www.filmcompanion.in/aashiq-abus-virus-is-a-superbly-crafted-and-very-human-medical-thriller-baradwaj-rangan/

Aashiq Abu follows Mayaanadhi with another winner. Virus is a medical thriller that brings to mind the all-star disaster movies from Hollywood. If the threat was fire in The Towering Inferno and a tidal wave in The Poseidon Adventure, it’s the Nipah virus here — I was reminded of Steven Soderbergh’s Contagion (2011), another all-star disaster movie about the attempt to identify and contain the source of a mysterious sickness. Virus also functions as a “procedural” where “detectives” track down a serial killer, or as a post-apocalyptic drama about the race to survive. But despite these broad genre frameworks, the film transcends genre and becomes a very human story. It doesn’t exploit the material for cheap sentiment or easy thrills. There’s remarkably no hysteria — not when terrified citizens block the passage of an ambulance, not when a grieving man gazes at a chimney emitting smoke from his wife’s cremated body (he couldn’t be inside, lest he get infected, too), not even when bioterrorism is brought in as a plot point. Sushin Shyam’s score, with just enough drama, is enough (though I wonder if it’s time our music directors started thinking beyond violins and cellos to evoke emotion).

When the doctors realise something is wrong, it’s just another routine day in a crowded casualty ward. Rajeev Ravi and Shyju Khalid’s magnificent camerawork deposits us in the midst of chaos. (At the other extreme, later, it evokes the icy stillness that descends on Kerala and makes God’s Own Country feel like a dystopian landscape.) Patients are admitted with very everyday issues: a stroke, a severed tendon. Suddenly, there’s someone exhibiting rabies-like symptoms. The writing (Muhsin Parari, Sharfu, Suhas) and editing (Saiju Sreedharan) are spectacular. As we hear a doctor talking about this man’s symptoms, we cut to flashback-like vignettes — but instead of seeing this man, we see a woman exhibiting similar symptoms. What a brilliantly economical way to show how the disease is spreading! There’s no vaccine, no treatment protocol. All they can do is set up a control room and start investigating. Incidentally, no one prays. This is a truly scientific movie.

Continued at the link above.

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