Directed by Martin Prakkat, Nayattu follows three police officers on the run after being falsely accused of a crime. On the hunt are fellow police officers strong-armed by a politician contesting for local elections.
Nayattu is undoubtedly one of the more realistic cop movies out there. It isn’t about a cop’s noble stride to clean the system or his questionable ways in defeating crime. It is unabashedly grim with its portrayal of the system. One that never forgets that sometimes solving crime isn’t a one-man’s job. If an entire department abandons one cop, he feels as helpless as any ordinary citizen.
Too realistic to be fun?
True events rarely work out as well as they should for a good script and that’s where a great writer can shine. Nayattu feels so focused on being realistic that it forgets how to be an engaging story. Yes, there are tons of movies that aren’t about a plot and can be rudely summarized in one sentence. But those movies are often about some amazingly well-written characters. Nayattu doesn’t have that either. Despite having the chance to uncover three cops forced to be criminals, the movie never explores that. Apparent from the 16:9 aspect ratio and some amazing tracking shots in chase sequences, Nayattu is first and foremost a thriller. However, it fails to thrill as intended beyond the first act.
The story constantly introduces ideas that might turn the story around, but they just fall flat. These ideas seem to appear out of nowhere and leave even quicker. I think the intention is to show an enormous oppressive system that just crumbles anyone beneath it. Unfortunately, it lacks nuance and detail. A major mess up from the police can potentially ruin the entire investigation but is just abruptly cover-up by the end. Which just left me feeling stupid for being anxious leading up to it. If the cover-up was so convenient, why does the force make a big deal out of it when it happens? I felt a clear lack of emphasis on such story beats. Maybe introducing them as potential solutions, spending enough time on them, and then reverting them would’ve been the ‘subversion of expectations’ the writers were looking for.
Jumping genres isn’t easy
The story concludes rather disappointingly as well. I imagine it’s supposed to feel lacking catharsis and closure but somehow just feels anti-climactic. The fate of the three cops feels highly inconsequential, despite the film stating that it isn’t. I don’t see how their fate brings about any change in the grand scheme of things except their lives. But then again, this isn’t a movie about characters, it’s mostly a thriller. So, in a movie that’s supposed to constantly keep you guessing about what might happen next, nothing of much consequence happens and every attempt to do so is reverted immediately.
Despite all criticisms for the writing, I would still recommend Nayattu for everything else that does work well. The entire cast is highly convincing particularly Joju George and Nimisha Sajayan. The camerawork is exceptional, pulling off some great chase sequences across the runtime in multiple terrains. One noteworthy sequence very reminiscent of that from Memories of Murder is executed superbly. All dialogues are very concise, not nearly as dramatic and monologue-driven as they usually are, which feels appropriate with the subject at hand. Overall, there’s a lot to appreciate and admire if you’re willing to look past the disappointing writing.
Nayattu’s remarkably realistic portrayal of law enforcement and politics are held back immensely by its rather mundane plot. Something that’s hard to overlook because Nayattu focuses on being a thriller and not character-driven.