An innocent long drive to celebrate a birthday turns into a Kafkaesque nightmare for a young couple in the 2022 Malayalam film ‘Night Drive’.

Directed by Vysakh and written by Abhilash Pillai, the plot is the highlight of this political thriller, even if its packed with too many co-incidences to carry things forward. Actors Anna Ben and Roshan Matthew who were last seen together in the 2020 ‘Kapella’, play the lead pair in this one too. Anna Ben is popular regional news anchor Riya Roy, credited with breaking a gold-smuggling case involving a state minister. Roshan Matthew is Riya’s boyfriend Georgy, an Uber driver (an upgrade, since he drove an auto in Kapella) who wants to move to the gulf for better opportunities. The two seem to be a sweet practical couple, who go out on a drive late night, but get entangled in a dangerous political game after their car meets with an unexpected accident. To make things worse, the couple had a tiff with cop who is now in-charge of their case.

It takes time for the story to interesting, director Vysakh slowly sets things in place to introduce the first major twist, so until then the viewers may feel a little restless about scenes don’t have any context yet. But once the conflict begins, the pace picks good speed and every character’s presence falls into place like a jigsaw puzzle. The journalist-driver couple’s attempts to outwit the system forms the crux of the movie.

Anna Ben is spunky enough as the well-read confident journalist Riya, however Roshan Matthew has a limited set of expressions and isn’t able to give any sort of edge to Georgy. Indrajit Sukumaran overshadows the protagonists as the arrogant cop handling their case. Siddique as corrupt minister Rajan Kurup looks straight out of an actual state assembly, emulating subtle nuances of a politician well. The police-politician nexus and how a corrupt system can turn tables against the most upstanding citizens is portrayed in a very ‘in your face’ manner.

‘Night Drive’ follows Aristotles’ rule of drama when it comes to ‘unity of time’ – the entire story takes place in a period of 24 hours, with clever (if sometimes contrived) little twists and turns which will keep viewers guessing what’s going to happen next. It almost gave me second-hand anxiety, which is a compliment to the makers really, that’s the kind of effect thrillers should have on the audience. I guess.

The climax matches the expectations set up by the makers, however, not before an unnecessary emotional sequence meant to make either viewers empathize with or admire Riya and Georgy. So there’s a bit of sob story stuffed in, followed by an exaggerated action fight… a clear attempt to give the film a more mainstream touch towards the end, maybe a lot of viewers would like it. I didn’t. Thankfully, the emotional detour doesn’t take the climax’s thunder away and ‘Night Drive’ ends with a clear dawn.

It’s a 7.5/10 from me. You can stream it on Netflix.

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