Spyder movie review: Mahesh Babu, AR Murugadoss film is the smart spy thriller Telugu cinema needed

Five minutes into AR Murugadoss’ Spyder, starring Mahesh Babu and SJ Suryah, you begin to sense a feeling that it won’t be a usual action film. The hero introduces himself with a voice-over where he explains what he does for a living. He is okay with people not recognising him and his heroism because for him, saving people’s lives is more important.

As a junior level officer at the Intelligence Bureau, Shiva (Mahesh Babu) has the distinction of building his own software to track people’s conversations. He’s good at his job, but he doesn’t like being pompous, and his friends at the Bureau support him whole-heartedly, despite knowing that everything that they are doing is illegal. This also explains why the film is devoid of any trappings which could eulogise a hero to convey the emotion of that character.

Spyder is the kind of film which is extremely aware of what it’s doing and we, as the audience, are expected to keep up with its pace.

You also begin to feel that AR Murugadoss, who wrote and directed Spyder, stuck to his guns to make a film which doesn’t get bogged down by the presence of a star. The focus is purely on the story and the characters – Shiva and Bhairavudu (played by a sensational SJ Suryah). While Shiva believes in humanity, Bhairavudu believes in destruction. Why? Because he feels more at peace when he sees other wailing. It’s termed as SPD (Sadistic Personality Disorder), an euphemism which has been explored with great effect in every sense.

The first time we hear about Bhairavudu’s past, you shudder when you think about his motivations. He kills because when people cry, it’s music to his ears. There’s no other motivation behind it. Like Alfred says in The Dark Knight, “…some men aren’t looking for anything logical, like money. They can’t be bought, bullied, reasoned, or negotiated with. Some men just want to watch the world burn.” Here, Bhairavudu just wants to watch the world cry.

Murugadoss offers plenty of ideas to familiarise us the extent to which Shiva can go to do his job. In one interesting episode, he hacks into an entertainment channel to reach out to a few women; in another, uses thermal-imaging technology to trace people; in another montage scene, Shiva appears at the crime spot before something can go terribly wrong. It’s a joy to watch a film where such ideas actually translate well on screen. But at its core, the film is about the confrontation between good vs evil, between a man who wants to be a hero lurking in the shadows and a villain who terrorises people openly. The script derives its strength from the villain’s past. And all the hero is left with is a sharp acumen to use the gadgets at his disposal to catch the villain before the latter implements more devious plans. There’s a constant feeling of doom and Murugadoss toys around with this external threat quite well throughout the film.

Mahesh Babu is terrific in his role as an Intelligence Bureau officer, and he underplays his body language throughout the film.

It’s also one of the most intense performances in his career, and full credit to him for pulling it off with such panache and authenticity. SJ Suryah is a revelation and easily the best villain we have seen in recent times. It’s a performance for the ages, and the actor does full justice to his wonderfully written role. Amidst a fight between these two behemoths, there’s hardly a space for romance, and naturally, Rakul Preet gets very little screen time.

The film, however, has its share of issues, especially in terms of its VFX. There are portions of stunt sequences which don’t quite look authentic, and the sub-standard visual effects in one critical moment in the story hampers the experience. Although the action is treated quite realistically for most part, it does force us to stretch our imagination at times in its attempt to justify how far the villain would go to wreak havoc in an urban dwelling.

Spyder is also a true blue action thriller and it stays true to the genre. Harris Jayaraj’s background score and Santosh Sivan’s cinematography are terrific. And the fact that it’s quite engaging almost till the end is an impressive feat in itself. Quite frankly, it’s a relief to see a film like this being made in the first place because it delves into the very concept of how vulnerable human lives are and why we all need to watch out for each other. In the end, even if the message of the film feels like an afterthought, its emotion is very much the driving force behind the lead character.

This isn’t a Mahesh Babu’s film alone and it doesn’t pander to our expectations from his action dramas. And to see him step into the shoes of a character which doesn’t dominate the film is also why Spyder has a very different tone from the very beginning. A big thumbs up for Spyder. Go watch it.

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