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There's something eerie in Karthik Subbaraj's Mercury right from the first frame itself. You already sense danger for the protagonists in the frightening world created by the filmmaker and want to reach out to them before they meet their doom. With absolutely no spoken dialogues in the film, Mercury relies heavily on the audience's sensory to put across a social message that is importantly the need of this hour. You need to keep your eyes glued to the screen lest you would miss an important clue. That's the place where Mercury emerges a winner. It keeps you hooked barring a few slips here and there.
Coming to the plot, it begins with a group of five friends- four boys (Deepak Paramesh, Anish Padmanabhan, Sananth Reddy, Shashank Purushotham) and a girl (Indhuja)- each deaf and mute, enjoying themselves by dancing to some high-pitch music late night. It's the girl's birthday. And did we tell you one of the lads is heads over heels in love with her and is looking forward to propose her? You slowly realize that these specially-abled people believe in enjoying their lives to the fullest.
Few scenes later, you find the group of friends heading towards the wood. Post some romance blooming between the lovebirds under a moon-lit sky, the gang heads back home. On their way, an unfortunate event leads them to a dead body (Prabhudeva). Scared to their wits, they dump the body near an abandoned chemical plant called 'Corporate Earth' and drive away.
However the next morning when they return back to the burial spot to recover one of the boy's missing I-pad, they discover the dead body missing from the spot. The rest of the plot deals with connection between the characters, events and mercury.
Karthik Subharaj is successful in building up the suspense in his film which revolves around the subject of mercury poisoning, corporate corruption and negligence. He makes sure that your eyes never leave the screen. Mercury comes with its set of limitations since it's a silent thriller. But the director gets his ingredients bang on to give you some 'chills' and 'thrills'.
On the flipside, there are a few scenes especially in the first half which might remind you of 'I Know What You Did Last Summer'. Now, that's something which you are definitely not looking for in a Karthik Subbaraj film. Further, a few familiar horror tropes let you down a bit.
Speaking about the performances, the young actors (Deepak Paramesh, Anish Padmanabhan, Sananth Reddy, Shashank Purushotham, Indhuja) put up a commendable performance. Prabhudeva's spooky avatar will definitely leave you surprised and has some 'chilling' scenes to his credit. My favourite one is that of him prowling out of darkness, his fingers dancing on the edges of crimped metal.
Be it the sound of the appetizers sizzling in hot oil or the clanging of metals, Mercury relies heavily on sound to create an engrossing ambience. Santosh Narayanan's background score and Kunal Ranjan's sound design adds life to the film. S. Tirru's top-notch cinematography perfectly captures the misty hills, chilly nights and adds a toxic green when there is danger lurking in the second half.
Karthik Subbaraj's brave attempt needs to applauded when it comes to some experimentation in Indian cinema. Mercury fails to stay firm on its feet due to a cluttered narrative and a few loopholes which leave some questions unanswered. Go for this one only if you are in the mood for something 'hatke'. For the rest, this silence isn't gold.