Rating: 4 out of 5.

In a star-studded cast that includes Ben Kingsley, Ralph Fiennes, and Benedict Cumberbatch, it’s the youngest among them all, Dev Patel, who keeps you hooked to the 2023 short film “Poison” by Wes Anderson.

Based on a story by Roald Dahl, “Poison” unfolds crisply and tensely over 17 minutes, following the harrowing ordeal of Mr. Harry Hope (Benedict Cumberbatch). He lies paralyzed with fear in his bed for hours after a poisonous snake crawls up and falls asleep on his stomach. Dev Patel plays Woods, a friend of Harry’s, who frantically tries to figure out how to save him from the clutches of death. While Dev Patel primarily narrates the tale, sometimes Ralph Fiennes, portraying Roald Dahl, takes over the narration in between.

The cinematography in “Poison” is simpler compared to “The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar,” which also featured the same set of actors. However, this simplicity is due to the limited setting of the story, mostly unfolding in Harry’s home with a brief shift to Dr. Ganderbai’s house (Ben Kingsley), the doctor summoned by Woods. Nevertheless, “Poison” unmistakably carries Anderson’s distinctive style. It’s shot like a pop-up picture book, and the camera angles often make it feel as if viewers are watching the story unfold in a dollhouse. The subtle ticking of a clock in the background adds urgency to the already grave situation, keeping you invested until the end.

Dev Patel as Woods delivers rapid descriptions of everything happening in the story. His swift dialogue delivery, dramatic body language, khaki uniform, and combed mustache remind me of a popular Indian comic-book character called Shikari Shambhu. Benedict Cumberbatch is entertaining as the panic-stricken Britisher Harry Hope, who, despite his dire circumstances, retains his arrogance and superiority, displaying vile behavior towards the Indian doctor sincerely trying to rescue him.

After all the tension and panic surrounding the effort to save Harry Hope from the snake coiled on his stomach, “Poison” concludes rather abruptly and on a noxious note. Perhaps the lesson is – if an arrogant white man is dying, the humble brown man should leave him be.

You can stream “Poison” on Netflix.

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