Cast: Taapsee Pannu, Vinodhini
Director: Ashwin Sarvanan
Game Over opens with a heinous, gruesome killing that sets the bar for just how ugly things can get in this home invasion thriller. Let's just say it involves asphyxiation, beheading, and immolation. It's a murder so chilling that when the killer prepares to strike again, you're terrified both for the victim and yourself.
Directed by Ashwin Sarvanan, Game Over is taut and clever, but also at times plain silly. Not content being merely a home invasion movie, it has elements of a psychological thriller, and nods to films like Edge of Tomorrow in which characters get multiple lives to move up levels in stories that are structured like video games.
Video games, as it turns out, have a key role to play here. Taapsee Pannu is Sapna, a video game developer battling anxiety issues and a crippling fear of the dark. Homebound since she suffered a traumatic experience a year ago, she has only a housekeeper for company, and what seems like a commitment to improve her Pac Man score.
It doesn't take a genius to predict that Sapna will come in harm's way. To raise the stakes, midway through the movie she becomes confined to a wheelchair in her big empty house that's located in the middle of nowhere. Let the games begin.
Sarvanan and his co-writer Kaavya Ramkumar trade in interesting concepts like 'anniversary reaction' and 'memorial tattoos' to add unpredictable layers to the template of the classic home invasion film. Some of these concepts are genuinely fascinating; others are employed in far-fetched ways.
Taapsee, the odds stacked against her character, makes Sapna easy to root for. Her anguish is palpable, her body weak. For much of the film Taapsee is the only person on screen, and she powers through the film – including clunky laughable scenes – with complete sincerity, and a fighter's spirit. Interestingly, like the characters she played in some of her best films, Pink, Manmarziyaan and Badla, in this film too she's unwilling to play the victim. Even with both her legs in a cast, and stuck in a wheelchair.
Game Over has some genuinely suspenseful moments, one terrific jump scare, but also a ridiculous sentimental track that sticks out like a sore thumb in a brisk thriller. The makers have some interesting things to say about violence towards women and the residue it can leave. There's a lot going on, but barring its leading lady's impressive performance, it's simply hit and miss.
I'm going with two-and-a-half out of five. It's ambitious but rough around the edges.