Release Date: 17/05/2021
Cast: Chris Rock, Samuel L. Jackson, Max Minghella
Director: Darren Lynn Bousman
I have always been a fan of the Saw films. With every new instalment, the franchise has stretched the world and the character to places that have not been easy to explain and for the audiences to be on the same page with or care to remember. However, that hasn’t taken away the fun of watching these films. The intricate and imaginative death traps, the uncertainty of the timelines of particular films, the reliable performances from most of the cast remember and the recurring theme of the importance of survival and appreciation of life has made these films a household name. I do admit that some of them were pretty bad but they were always fun. With Jigsaw, I got a feeling that they might just be running out of ideas to make another Saw film but that was until Saw-Fanboy and comedian of international repute Chris Rock decided to take a leaf out of the book of Saw and create something original, was inspired by Saw, unfolded in a universe where John Kramer was a known entity and yet exist solely for its own motivations and reasons. This was a good idea.
Zeke (Chris Rock) is a rebellious detective in a police precinct where his father, played by Samuel L. Jackson held sway for decades. Zeke holds aloft righteousness above all else in a department that is evidently corrupt and downright brutal. His attitude towards law enforcement and disregard for fellow feeling when standing up against crime committed by cops has made him unpopular in the department over the years. He has few friends in the department and one of them is Boz. Boz is murdered by a killer that portrays some of the characteristics of Jigsaw and yet reeks of having a personal vendetta against his target. Zeke takes up the lead on the investigation as it is a personal matter for him. He is aided in his pursuit by William, a rookie who has just joined the department and is selected to be Zeke’s partner by the precinct chief as she knows that no one else would be willing to do so.
As Zeke dwells deeper and deeper into the case to nab Boz’s killer, more grotesque murders take place of officers of the same precinct. The killer communicates with Zeke and gives him all the evidence that he needs to understand that the ones he is taking out were crooked and were proven guilty of committing some atrocity or the other. Things get messy when the killer takes out people that Zeke cares about and even his father goes missing. Zeke has no idea of where the man might be and the only way to put all the questions to rest lies in Zeke solving the case and nabbing the killer.
I liked Spiral because it is so entertaining, engrossing, and well-acted. The film is structured wonderfully. It moves at a violent speed but the narrative is so well laid out and things happen in such a coherent manner that the audiences will not miss a thing. The film brings back memories of the macabre that made the Saw films popular and we have some innovative and sick death traps here that are in strong keeping with the kind of punishment that the killer has worked out for all his targets. The traps may be brutal but they offer a chance to the victims to make out of it alive albeit at a price of atleast a limb. While the antagonist of the film is inspired by Jigsaw and does things in a manner similar to how Jigsaw operated, his motivations are totally different. This gives the film a unique twist in the tale.
Also, the film doubles down as an investigative drama with the murders being committed by the antagonist only drawing a parallel to Jigsaw and making a louder splash. If the techniques of the murders and their revelations were only simplified, this film would just be a simple whodunit thriller and it would still work owing to its story, twists, and authoritative culmination. That proves the point that the makers cared for the story that they are relating and worked on it enough to give it individuality and use the tropes of Saw just as an additional garnish to make their overall dish appear more tempting.
The film would not have worked without a sense of urgency within the characters and that urgency is delivered through the character of Zeke. Chris Rock is an animated actor in his rendering of Zeke and he goes way over the top. But that in this case proves to be a good thing for the character as the audiences get into a hyperbolic state with the character as the film moves through the narrative. As the story progresses and more and more people are killed, we see Zeke get crazier by the day as he finds himself always a step behind the killer. The time frame of the narrative gives an impression of being contained within a few more days but when one looks at it closely, it becomes apparent that the story is laid out across many days but feels more condensed due to its execution.
The antagonist of the film is someone that many will be able to guess by the halfway mark of the film. However, the character still worked for me as all his actions had a strong motivation behind them, and the stuff that he is shown pulling off was doable in the real sense of the term. The only time when the logic falters is when we see the character pull off a daring murder inside the police precinct. This is something that made me laugh out loud but other than that the film remains on point for most of its runtime. In a film like this, one needs to be ready for a certain amount of suspension of disbelief and thankfully Spiral doesn’t spiral out of control in the dealing of its many over-the-top murders.
The aesthetics of the film and its rendering of the town wherein we see the action unfold are wonderful. I loved the oversaturated and sweaty feel of the visuals and it contributed to the feel of a film following a man on the clock to outsmart a killer who is gunning for his near and dear ones. Some trademark Saw tropes are used and they are bound to appeal to the ones who have enjoyed the Saw films. The surge of the narrative is relentless and it never stops to take a breather. By the time the film ends, it answers all your questions and culminates the story satisfactorily. At the same time, it leaves room for something new to come in the future. Spiral gave me more entertainment and intrigue than I was expecting from it. For that and its story, performances, action, and innovative ways of ending lives, I enjoyed it thoroughly. I wouldn’t mind watching this film a couple of times a year.
Rating: 3/5 (3 out of 5 Stars)