With all the human presence, it’s the loud honking, smoke puffing monster centipede of a truck that grabs and keeps your attention all along. Despite a very odd guess-the-man game that plucks the fun out of it, ‘Overtake’ is a daring visual adaptation that does have its few moments.
John’s ‘Overtake’ that starts off with an explanatory note that it has indeed been inspired by a few Hollywood road films, is a film that has quite obviously been much motivated in its making by Steven Spielberg’s ‘The Duel’ (1971). The Dennis Weaver starrer that talked of the terror that a tanker truck and its unidentifiable driver unleash on a middle-aged motorist driving along the canyon roads of California, is still looked upon by many a thriller aficionado with much reverence.
‘Overtake’ has Vijay Babu playing Nandan Menon, a business tycoon who has just wrapped up his Bangalore life and who plans to return to Kerala, along with his wife Radhika (Parvathy Nair). In a hurry to reach their daughter’s boarding school, the couple decides to take a short cut and whizzes their red Mercedes Benz ahead a dusty, isolated road with not a soul in sight. Until, they catch sight of a gargantuan truck that refuses to let them pass by.
It takes a whole lot of verve to make a film as ‘Overtake’ that has most of its action happening on the road with just a couple of characters around, and in this regard, John does dabble with taxing material. You don’t get to see one of these in Malayalam cinema that often, and ‘Overtake’ does score points for being a survivalist tale set on the road.
However it’s in the tweaking of this exciting premise to wedge in local sensibilities that the film falters. While Weaver is alone in his battle against the psychotic truck driver, Nandan has a family comprising of his wife and young daughter, a workplace that he has recently quit, business associates, friends, and a whole lot of others in his world – plenty of distractors who merely contribute in diluting the exhilaration that accompanies the chase. This impact even gets glaring at times, like when straight after a minute of thrill, the scene jarringly shifts to a song sung by the girl left alone at the boarding school.
There is also another fatal flaw that ‘Overtake’ has; one that ‘The Duel’ had so skilfully dodged – that of finally unveiling the identity of the truck driver. ‘Overtake’ emerges more of a guessing game hence and decides to settle for a much more definitive motive than mere road rage. Moving beyond this primal reactionary cause, the film takes quite a while to establish its supporting characters and it’s only around the half way point that the kicks start getting delivered.
‘Overtake’ deserves a huge pat on the back for the kind of challenging labours that must have gone into the crafting of the chase scenes. This is where the film does offer dollops of excitement, and the thrill moments that appear in quick succession do keep you on the edge of your seat, even if you are quite sure of the eventual outcome.
Ajayan Vincent is the true hero here, and goes that extra mile or two as his camera stealthily sneaks up beneath the mammoth truck or zooms past it in a hurried frenzy, treacherously crosses paths with it or even ducks to avoid being run over. There is some brilliant cinematography on show here and ‘Overtake’ owes its best moments to Vincent than anyone else.
Vijay Babu is quite at ease playing the harrowed driver, while Parvathy Nair quite annoyingly hangs on to his arms on the wheel. And with all the human presence, it’s the loud honking, smoke puffing monster centipede of a truck that grabs and keeps your attention all along. Despite a very odd guess-the-man game that plucks the fun out of it, ‘Overtake’ is a daring visual adaptation that does have its few moments.