Captain Miller from Arun Matheswaran has the difficulty of having to establish its world using an extensive duration. Because of that, as a viewer, I was finding it difficult to connect with the subject and characters on an emotional level, even though Arun scored really well with the action set-pieces. Luckily, the movie’s final act has some top-notch action sequences that have a commercial appeal but don’t really feel like a forcefully placed one. Because of the action-high climax, the film definitely ends on a high, but if you ask me whether it was a gratifying experience, I will hesitate to say a confident yes.
The film is about this village in Tamil Nadu during the British rule. The superior cast who ruled the state didn’t let the lower caste members enter the temple, and that lack of respect, despite being involved in the construction of the temple, infuriated our hero Analeesan, aka Eesa. Against his brother and village’s wishes, Eesa decided to join the British army as they gave him respect. What we see in Captain Miller is the transition that happened in Eesa’s life after he joined the forces.
When the poster and title were revealed, everyone sighted a similarity with George Miller’s iconic Mad Max franchise. Considering the dystopian nature of Miller’s movies, I wouldn’t really call it an attempt to create something similar. To me, it felt more like a Sholay kind of dramatic film that sort of used George Miller’s visual language and violence scale to elevate the drama in the content. As I said, a major chunk of this movie is invested in world-building. There is a humongous set piece that happens in the climax of the film. So if you want to make the audience root for the right people, it is necessary to depict the backstory with enough details. Even though the commercial film format is limiting Matheswaran in giving enough space to each character, I felt that he managed to do that by assigning the details to the various chapters of the movie.
Dhanush fits into the mold of the character of Eesa, aka Captain Miller. The transition from a naive respect-seeking guy to a remorseless killer was portrayed neatly by him. And in those action sequences that stage Miller against hundreds of British army men, you would really buy that sequence largely due to how Dhanush carries that character. Priyanka Mohan gets to play a character that is clearly away from her cute girl comfort zone and never feels like a misfit. Nivedhithaa Sathish is there in a character that will stay with the audience. Elango Kumaravel also plays a key role in the movie with good screen time. I kind of disliked how the antagonists were designed in this movie, and both Jayaprakash and John Kokkan are playing their parts in a caricature-ish pitch, which sort of didn’t match with the rest of the movie. The cameos by Shiva Rajkumar and Sudeep Kishan help the film on a very commercial level to create a kind of theater euphoria in the climax bits of the movie.
It is when the movie approaches the final lap, the Arun Matheswaran factor really kicks into the film. The scale of the set pieces will astound you, and even the staging of drama, especially when the people enter the temple after literally fighting for it, has an appeal to its credit. It was interesting how the Priyanka Mohan character stood at the entry point when everyone was inside the temple. The scene that has Miller making the prince watch everyone enter the temple, and the dialogues that followed made the film all the more political, and it blended well with the overall drama inside the story. Like the other Arun Matheswaran films, the visual language has a lot of darks, and it somewhat complements the overall violent texture of the story. The song placements went well with the story, and the background scores had the musical high the movie demanded.
Captain Miller is definitely not a generic vision. It has clarity about what it wants to portray, and it is somewhat unapologetic in achieving that. It is the extensive world-building that has some broad strokes in establishing characters, especially the negative ones, that sort of makes the dramatic parts of the movie somewhat flat. When the General decides to peel off his bandage in the climax, and we have him in that two-face kind of getup, I genuinely wished that a better buildup to that character would have definitely enhanced the drama quotient of the movie.
Because of the action-high climax, the film definitely ends on a high, but if you ask me whether it was a gratifying experience, I will hesitate to say a confident yes.
Green: Recommended Content
Orange: The In-Between Ones
Red: Not Recommended