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Critics Review
Cold Case review: Prithviraj’s investigative thriller with horror elements aces neither genre

The police investigation part of the movie falls flat. Even though it keeps the story progressing with one lead after another, it does feel that some sequences are used to distract the audience

Sanjith Sidhardhan
Jun 30, 2021
cover image

Prithviraj in a still from Cold Case

Director Tanu Balak’s Cold Case is Malayalam star Prithviraj’s first release in over a year. The film, which is an investigative thriller with elements of horror, has him playing a cop along with Aruvi fame Aditi Balan in an equally pivotal character. With Malayalam cinema acing the genre of late, is Cold Case, which is streaming on Amazon Prime Video, another worthy addition?

After a man pulls out a skull from a lake, assistant police commissioner Sathyajith (Prithviraj) is assigned to the case to identify the victim and track down the killer. With little to go by, the systematic cop uses his inferences and scientific methods to pursue the case with no leads.

Meanwhile, after moving to a new house, an investigative reporter, Medha Padmaja (Aditi Balan), and her daughter begin experiencing incidents that don’t have a natural explanation. She seeks the help of a clairvoyant (Suchitra Pillai), who confirms the presence of a spirit trying to communicate. Both Sathyajith and Medha carry out parallel investigations, but what happens when their paths intertwine? 

Throughout the first half of Cold Case, director Tanu Balak and scriptwriter Srinath V Nath use the horror tropes effectively to keep the audience at the edge of their seats. Removing Prithviraj’s Sathyajith entirely from the portions that cater to this genre further accentuates its effect. More than jump scares, the makers create an eerie atmosphere, in a house inhabited by a mother, daughter and their help, and these sequences elevate the film, more so because they have been moderately used.

The police investigation part of the movie – though comes across as well researched and scientific – falls flat. Even though it keeps the story progressing with one lead after another and is also peppered with some clever lines and scenes, it does feel that some sequences are used to distract the audience, who anyway only discover the identity of the killer when Sathyajith does. Also, the whodunit’s police probe doesn’t come together organically with the final clues seemingly weaved in to connect the characters. Medha’s deductions too aren’t fleshed out and the makers seem to have used her track only with the intention to feature the scares in the film.

For an actor of Prithviraj’s caliber, the role of ACP Sathyajith is a cakewalk. He looks the part of a methodical cop, asking the right questions. Even in the scenes with his uncle (Alencier Ley Lopez), he maintains the demeanour of an impassive officer. Aditi, in her Malayalam debut, does the best of what she has been offered. She ably plays Medha and is the character that adds emotion to the story. The film also has the late actor Anil Nedumangad in a supporting act and it does feel surreal to have another voice dubbing for his character. Suchitra stars in a spooky cameo as a clairvoyant while Lakshmi Priyaa Chandramouli and Athmiya Rajan play their parts well.

On the technical front, its cinematography – by Jomon T John and Gireesh Gangadharan – deserves a special mention. The police investigation bit is told mostly in the day while Medha’s arc happens in the dark and in the confines of the house, which is used effectively for frights. The shots of the “real horror” in the movie – which is inspired by true incidents – could make some queasy. Another positive aspect was that Prakash Alex’s background music of the film was subdued till the denouement, where it was more reflective of the culprit’s state of mind.

If the makers had also paid more attention to the investigations in Cold Case as much as they did with the horror elements, this Prithviraj-starrer would have made for a solid, thrilling watch. But instead, you get a thriller that juggles two genres but doesn’t ace either.

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