Midway through Ashwin Saravanan’s genre-bending thriller Game Over, we tend to correlate the key protagonist Swapna’s (Taapsee Pannu) tribulations to her vocation – that of a game developer. The director smartly intersperses his frames with numerous quotes and subtle hints to establish this strange yet possible connection. Swapna is shown to be fond of PacMan, the syntax of which could be an easy metaphor to her own isolated and vulnerable life. As the film progresses through its heavily subtext-laden plot, Saravanan chooses to spring pleasant surprises (or shocks rather), one after the other.
Game Over, for starters, is not one for the faint-hearted. I am one (unfortunately) and the initial few minutes were a tad too dark to conjure but, yes, these portions do not germinate from an excuse to fill the screen with bloodshed. With only a couple of legitimate characters to play with, besides a spooky, large house as the milieu, the film does not rely too much on dialogues. A lot of its complexities are, therefore, mirrored through the protagonist’s reactions, flashback montages, brief soliloquies and the reference of Swapna’s (probably) estranged parents. The primary focus here is on her intense fear for the dark, which lands her up often at a therapist’s clinic. In an instance where we see him evaluate the seams of her fear through a VR device, we observe Pannu unleashing her incredible prowess to own the screen like, perhaps, none of her contemporaries ever will. Come to think of it, Swapna’s is a very physical part to ace. You cannot be a frightened damsel and nail it all with a set of pre-approved expressions. Pannu’s agile physicality combined with her proven sense of timing takes the film several notches higher. I could not stop applauding event the slightest of moments like, say, those where she does typical woman things like tying her dense hair up. Marvellous is the word!
And, oh, there’s a tattoo angle in the plot too. Swapna has a funky video game tattoo on her wrist which the film, for a while, asserts is the reason for all her miseries. There is a soppy passage somewhere towards the mid-point which not only waivers the film out of its pace but also of the tense mood. Maybe I wasn’t prepared for melodrama in Game Over. Not even an ounce. It feels further pointless as the film proceeds because we eventually realize how these long-drawn segment didn’t exist to add much value to the way its narrative was going to pan out.
Game Over picks up soon after the mid-point with a series of dreams that Swapna [translates to ‘dream’ in Indian languages] is shown to wake up from. The third act is chilling and filled with countless neatly packed jump scares. It also abounds in gore along with a series of quiet allegories – some of which never get closures. As an everyman viewer, I was partially disappointed with the finale but then again, one sees what the filmmaker wants to declare here. Saravanan simply lets certain mysteries be. The parents never appear. The cops are ornamental. Game Over, that way, is about Swapna taking charge of her despair, with her phobia very much in place. I could quickly recall Olivier Assayas’ Personal Shopper which sped on a similar tangent. The film, in certain ways, had a more arresting last stretch as its climax had a clear sense of definitiveness. Game Over, on the contrary, exits with the potential for a spookier sequel. Well, I am game… if not everyone else!
Rating: ★★★ 1/2