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CBI 5 The Brain movie review: Mammootty’s cerebral thriller is pacy and overloaded with red herrings

What works best though in the film is how despite Iyer’s genius in nailing down the culprits, he repeatedly fails to make a solid case out of it. The script allows room to show the perpetrators’ brilliance too, making them worthy opponents for the sleuth

3.5rating
  • Sanjith Sidhardhan

Last Updated: 06.34 AM, May 01, 2022

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CBI 5 The Brain movie review: Mammootty’s cerebral thriller is pacy and overloaded with red herrings
CBI 5: The Brain poster

Story: After a death of a minister leads to suspected murders of an activist, a doctor and a police officer, the family of the cop approaches the court for CBI to take over the investigation. Enter Sethurama Iyer and his team, but the investigation, which is later referred to as one of the toughest the agency had to face, takes them on a ride where they hit more dead ends than uncover new clues. Along with the probe, threats to the chief minister, non-cooperation stance from the police and personal agendas of several people who wanted the CBI to take over, further threaten to derail the case. How Sethurama Iyer, along with the help of his trusted aides – old and new – finally zero in on the ones behind the series of murders and reveal their motives form the plot.

Review: An important scene in the second half of the investigative thriller CBI 5: The Brain has a character asking its protagonist Sethurama Iyer (Mammootty) to come up with something cogent and sensible. This could have been the directive of its filmmaker K Madhu and Mammootty to its scriptwriter SN Swamy if they had to collaborate for their fifth films in the 34-year-old franchise. And the veteran writer delivers!

The movie kicks off with an induction function in the CBI office where a senior officer, played by Renji Panicker, talks to the new batch of a case that had confounded even the best in the agency. The case – which involved series of murders of a minister, a cop, a cardiologist and a whistleblower activist – was initially probed by the police with DySP Sathyadas (Saikumar), but only to be transferred to CBI. This is where Iyer and his team enter the fray. What awaits them is a non-cooperative stance of the police, further threats to the CM (Dileesh Pothan) and even family secrets of those who initially lobbied to have the agency take up the case.

It's in the first half where Swamy packs the movie with a ‘basketful’ of red herrings and stories, in a bid to show how challenging it is for the CBI team to chase a worthy lead. However, what it also does is make it hard to keep track, if you lose attention for a moment. There’s so much happening even before the protagonist Iyer comes, 40 minutes into the movie that is 2 hours and 42 minutes long. It does make the movie fast-paced but at the same time, if you have zoned out, you are missing out on key details. To a point it doesn’t matter because most of it is deliberate distraction from the actual clues that lead to the perpetrators, but where is the fun in only chasing the right tail.

Apart from the several characters and storylines that Swamy and (in the movie) Iyer disregard later, the first half also plays the iconic theme song too often; this wears off the vibe after a point. The second half though gets better – just like every other CBI film bar, maybe the fourth. Here is also where the film finds its footing and you see Iyer’s brilliance in full swing – explaining his theories, breaking them down, making ‘connections’ and showing his frustrations of not finding enough evidence – albeit in the most sedate manner. What works best though in the film is how despite Iyer’s genius in nailing down the culprits, he repeatedly fails to make a solid case out of it. The script allows room to show the perpetrators’ brilliance too, making them worthy opponents for the sleuth.

Mammootty is a treat to watch as Sethurama Iyer. Despite having first played the character in 1988, he doesn’t seem to have missed a beat while reprising it for the fifth and definitely not the final time, from what the story hints. The actor beautifully lends the calm and aura to Iyer, and overshadows his opponents and colleagues without trying to do that. Saikumar’s Sathyadas is abrasive as intended, and he gets full points for mimicking the late actor Sukumaran, who played Sathyadas’ father Devadas in the first two films. Though there’s nostalgia sprinkled every 15 minutes in the film, the scene featuring Jagathy Sreekumar as Vikram is beautifully written and acted. It’s not a sequence that is used just for nostalgia’s sake as it reveals vital clues that take forward Iyer’s investigation.

The movie also has several characters that come and go including Dileesh Pothan as the chief minister, Asha Sharath as a lawyer, Anoop Menon as police chief, Sudev Nair as a corrupt cop and Soubin Shahir as a suspect. How Swamy and Madhu have used these characters well is also proof of how much work has gone into the film that has a healthy balance between nostalgia and today’s style of films. Akhil George’s cinematography and Jakes Bejoy’s revamped theme music have a huge role to play in that.

Verdict: Sethurama Iyer’s fifth outing is a well-written investigative thriller that has the sleuth facing off against opponents that are as smart as him. While the film is overloaded with red herrings, once it narrows its focus and finds its footing, it’s an engaging watch to see Iyer use his genius, with able and delightful support of his previous aides, to uncover the truth and make his case.v

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