Irul Movie Review: This Taut 90-Minute Whodunit Will Keep You Guessing

A stormy night. A stranded couple.  A mysterious host. A sprawling mansion. And….a dead body in the basement!

The killer is definitely one among the three. Who could it be?

We just watched the latest offering by Netflix: Irul, directed by Naseef Yusuf Izudin and starring Fahad Faasil, Soubin Shahir, and Darshana Rajendran. The trailer had us spooked and hyped for what’s in store, and being the hopeless fanatics we are, we even put out our own theories of what the plot could be. Now did the film finally live up to our expectations? Without divulging much of the juicy details, we take a brief look at what worked for us and what didn’t. Read on! 

First off, we look at the film’s strengths. It rides high on technical brilliance and intriguing performances. 

Casting

Irul is one film that aims to keep the viewer torn between prospective suspects till the very end. The casting of actors who have avoided being typecast – be it Fahad, Soubin, or Darshana – adds to the experience in a big way, and you find yourself rooting for different characters as the plot progresses. 

There is a scene in the second half worth mentioning here – the three are arguing with each other in full aggression for about two straight minutes. It’s chaos of course – but a kind of beautiful chaos that can only be pulled off with sheer acting talent! 

Cinematography

Jomon T John does a great job of capturing the mood of the film, right from the title sequence and the dimly lit night shots to the scenes inside the house which, despite being aesthetically pleasing, breathe a certain palpable tension into the narrative. 

A special mention to the 6 minute single shot discussion sequence between the three characters. The blocking in that scene – with Fahad moving about between his dialogues – is just impeccable! 

Production Design

A big chunk of Irul happens inside the mansion, so it’s not surprising that the makers have designed the set with flawless detail. Everything about the house – the (inadequate) lighting, the western-style architecture, the mirrors and other props in the living room – adds to its enigma.

Sound and background score

A film of this genre demands a certain audiovisual quality, and the sound designed by Sankaran AS and KC Sidharthan, complements the visuals for the most part. Sreerag Saji opts for unconventional scoring at many points; for example, as we enter one of the crucial sequences in the climax, an opera bit starts playing. These choices, we believe, added a layer of novelty to the film. 

However, a few creative liberties and stylistic choices didn’t seem to fit.

  • The writing and direction departments seem to have faltered on how to progress the plot once the premise was set. As the end credits roll, the film leaves quite a few loose ends and unanswered questions. While trying to iron out the story post the watch, we realised that the writer seems to have attributed some crucial events to pure coincidence. (We plan to elucidate our thoughts in this article on Monday, so if you’re done watching the film by then, do come back to read our views!) Moreover, the dialogues seemed unnatural and force-fit as a foreshadowing tool in many places. 
  • The end does not necessarily give the high that the promising first half does. A few sequences towards the climax seemed overly dramatic and hence, felt disjointed from the rest of the film.
  • We also felt that one of the characters was played with more jitteriness than what the script demanded. This performance creates a contrast that may lead some veteran viewers of the genre to predict the killer without much ado. 

Final thoughts

If you’ve played Mafia, you might have come across this situation: you’re a villager and you have to choose between two people feigning innocence, one of whom is definitely a mafia. Irul pushes you into this space in the second half, and it’s the play between the two potential mafias (in this context, killers) that makes the film an engaging watch. 

If the prospect of a “cat-and-mouse inside-house” thriller excites you, you could give this one a shot! 

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