Director: Ashwin Saravanan
Cast: Taapsee Pannu, Parvathi T
I didn’t walk into Game Over expecting a Red Dead Redemption II poster in the heroine’s bedroom. The 2018 game is a moral struggle set around the fading of the Wild West, and a genuine milestone in game storytelling, with astounding details and an encouragingly interactive open world. With influences like that, one would imagine director Ashwin Saravanan would create an innovative film.
The poster turns out to be window-dressing. The heroine, Sapna, played by Taapsee Pannu, is a game designer, and therefore everything in her house is game-related: Super Mario Brothers, Grand Theft Auto, and Contra memorabilia line walls and shelves as she relentlessly plays Pac-Man on classic Nintendo and PlayStation boxes. A poster says “Video games ruined my life. Good thing I have two more.”
Watch Game Over trailer:
I hope that poster got a screenplay credit, for that pithy line spawns the entire plot: Sapna, who fears the dark, gets a tattoo that eventually turns into three tattoos, giving her a couple of do-overs in a strangely gruesome battle for survival. Here, therefore, is a slasher film with three climaxes.
It’s a solid concept. The idea of a ‘memorial tattoo’ — where people mix a loved one’s remains into tattoo ink to keep them bonded under their skin — is novel, and feels both beautiful and macabre. Sapna, an assault victim, now carries the scars of a spirited girl who had been bound and decapitated. Given extra lives, can she survive?
Pannu is reliably strong in a hysterically distraught role, and Vinodhini Vaidyanathan, playing a loving caretaker, is wonderfully warm and makes the film feel real. At 103 minutes, Game Over feels brisk, though weak Hindi dubbing and clumsy dialogues surely rob the Telugu-Tamil bilingual film of some urgency. Cinematographer A Vasanth has fun, using muscular pan-shots to establish his characters and surroundings — even though bright daylight peeks from the windows during scenes set late at night. Stunts are by a gentleman called “Real” Satheesh, and to his credit, the gore feels suitably accurate.
The thing about stories involving multiple lives — look at Source Code, Russian Doll, Edge of Tomorrow — is that each life needs to teach us something we use in the next turns. Game Over reaches its triple-header final act swiftly, then devolves into a witless muddle, with filmmakers ramping up sudden thrills but not seeding in the problem-solving elements the film needed.
This could so easily have been a smart film. We are never told why the heroine loves or makes games. Sapna doesn’t learn from mistakes, or ever truly take charge. No wonder she can’t beat her Pac-Man score.