Anthony has been promoted as India’s first claustrophobic thriller. The definition of claustrophobia is the ‘extreme or irrational fear of closed or confined spaces’. By the end of the film, I was the one who had a bout of claustrophobia, waiting to rush out of the theatre. At the end of each film, there is a thought or a question that generally stays with you. A good film leaves you with myriad possibilities. But walking out of Antony, I had one dominant realisation — I never knew 105 minutes could feel like a lifetime.
Antony is a survival drama, like 127 hours or even Trapped. Sub-Inspector Antony and his car get buried under mounds of sand and muck when he is on his way to marry his girlfriend. Unlike Trapped or 127 hours, we don’t get to know how Antony got into this extraordinary situation at the start. Here is where the film tries to make a crossover into ‘whodunnit’ thriller. While Antony struggles to survive, his father George (Lal, playing an ex-cop) tries to figure out what happened to his missing son.
For this premise to work as a whodunnit thriller, the plot needs to have formidable suspects. Instead, we get a sloppy montage that rushes through the possibilities. We are given vague, half-baked motives, with random moments of Antony prancing around as the ‘tough cop’ pushed in. There is absolutely no structure to the screenplay. With moments and plot points all over the place, I started to feel like the poor Antony who is stuck under sand piles. The screenplay has no life and runs around in circles. As we get a much-deserved interval break, one realises that the story hasn’t even inched forward.
The core emotion of a survival drama is hopelessness. We witness and experience the helplessness of the survivor as he runs out of resources, utilities and finally, hope. But in Antony, the hero gets a ready-made survival kit. It is almost as if he knew that he would get buried under the sand. The car is his Akshaya Patra — Antony conjures things that one would rarely expect in a car. He seems to have different kinds of cellophane tape, wire mesh and hollow rods just lying around in the car. Also, you don’t understand his actions half the time. There’s a scene where Antony sceptically looks at his partially filled water bottle. Thinking out loud about the limited water he has, Antony takes a swig of the bottle. He wonders what would happen if he drinks it all. When you’re expecting Anthony to grapple with this, he stops in mid-sentence and gulps the water down. That’s it. And tens of minutes later, impure water droplets miraculously seep down through a crack in the car glass. The writing is just lazy.
However, the frames of Antony show some effort. Each frame looks like a photograph, with some colouring that is impractical but aesthetically pleasing. Filmmakers usually aspire to achieve a consistent tone. But here each frame, in isolation, looks like a pretty photograph. The visuals do grab your eye. In particular, I loved the frame that comes after Antony gets hit and his vision in bloodied. The memory or vision he is recreating in his mind is now visually framed with red. The effect is greatly marred by the incoherent background score and to a great extent, the film itself.
Also, this is the second film after Abhiyum Anuvum that has a climax which makes the film’s struggle pointless. Instead, they could have just focused on the survival part. It could have helped us survive the film.