‘Virus’ review: Amidst the Chills, Heartwarming Hope

They say that the true test—and result—of human behavior and nature—comes swiveling to the fore in times of crisis. And if we’re still around—human beings, that is—it’s because there’s a gene of reaching out and pulling others from the dredges of suffering and disaster that’s alive and kicking in us. But how would we react if we knew that the very act of dipping our fingers into the vat of humanity meant mortal danger to us and our loved ones?

The Malayalam movie Virus provides the answer on behalf of some amongst us. Based on the deadly Nipah virus epidemic that hit Kerala circa 2018, director Aashiq Abu and writers Muhsin Parari, Sharfu, and Suhas combine elements of a medical thriller that throbs with the ominous beep of a vitals monitor, with human drama that’s coated with awe-inspiring, moving, true-life stories of courage in the face of mind-boggling tragedy.

Revathy’s act is humane and empathetic.

With editor Saiju Sreedharan, director Abu gets in the smarts in his story-telling that’s non-linear, demands your attention at the cerebral and cortex levels, and grips you, even as it weaves the stories of its ensemble characters, as they begin to get impacted by the domino effect of the viral outbreak. And the actors answering the long list of call sheet are all terrific—among others, Tovino Thomas as the district collector (balancing his easy-going charm with the grit of the humongous task his character faces), Revathy as the health minister (masterfully balancing the torrent of emotions hitting her with a calmness that only empathy can muster), Kunchacko Boban as the doctor from Manipal who finally cracks the cause of the mysterious outbreak, Rima Kallingal as Nurse Akhila, based on the real-life Lini Puthussery, whose final letter to her husband breaks the final breach of your emotional dam, Sreenath Bhasi and Madonna Sebastian playing the clawing-and-cloying doctor pair for one of whom life—and the outbreak—shows there’s no time like the present to unveil their feelings, Lukman Lukku‘s Dr. Sajith, a quiet friend we’d all be lucky to have, Joju George as Babu, who wants a regular job to fend for his family, and now chooses to zip into a Personal Protective Equipment (PPE),  Rahman, Asif Ali, Indrajith Sukumaran, the superb Dileesh Pothan as Prakashan, Parvathy Thiruvothu as Dr. Annu, whose character astutely puts the jigsaw pieces of the outbreak into some semblance of a pattern, and which involves playing a medico-detective as she contact traces the story for you and for all the characters involved. And there’s the terrific Soubin Shahir playing Unnikrishnan who proves that money’s the root of troubles, even in a medical mystery.

Even as composer Sushin Shyam‘s electronic score keeps the tension up and about (much like the throbbing score by Cliff Martinez did in that 90-minute gripper, Contagion), director Abu skillfully brings in the politics of administration: as pressure mounts and containing the spread seems a long shot, the shortest and swiftest path is the path of conspiracy theories. And yet, there’s strength in hope and hope in strength, as he narrates the stories of these brave women and men who cast aside any aspersions of their own survival and trudge into the unknown, possibly crossing the Rubicon of their mortality. In a scene that twinkles with heart and joy, Babu’s son lends him his school bag as he heads out for his mission. As he starts to lug the bag on one side, his son tells him to use the other side. Babu, half-jokingly, asks if that ‘s because the bag on that side looks cool. In a heartbeat comes the truth: “No, the strap on the other side’s broken.” Virus is a must-watch about those real-life women and men who hung on to every thread of humanity within them with courage and tenacity, even when—especially when—the deadly virus transmitted and transmuted to break all straps.  

Virus (2019) on IMDb Movie data powered by IMDb. All images owned by the producers.

Virus is rated U/A (Parental Guidance for children below the age of 12 years) for some mildly gory scenes.

Director Aashiq Abu Time 2h 32 min
Writers Muhsin Parari, Sharfu, Suhas
Stars Revathy, Tovino Thomas, Kunchacko Boban, Rima Kallingal, Parvathy Thiruvothu, Joju George
Genres  Drama, Thriller