U-Turn movie review: Alaya F steals the show in this thriller almost ruined by jumpscares and weak script
What happens when you start blaming your conscience for everything wrong around you? You fear for your life, imagine yourself talking to the dead and see ghosts killing people. Sounds like a perfect script for a thriller, isn't it? But imagine when a weak screenplay mars this experience, and give you an average thriller in return with wafer-thin plot, predictable turns and unwanted twists. Alaya F's U-Turn is a blend of all this and more. Directed by Arif Khan, this happens to be the seventh remake of the 2016 Kannada film by the same name. This makes me ponder what different Khan could have done here to ensure his version still works. Surprisingly, though, the film works in parts and the broad storyline never seems that convincing, it still somehow manages to keep you hooked till the last scene for the sheer curiosity of finding who was the killer. Basically, why we would watch even the most average thriller till the end. (Also read: Citadel review: Priyanka Chopra is the best thing about Prime Video's expensive but average new series)
U-Turn chronicles the story of Radhika Bakshi (Alaya), an intern with a newspaper who is working on a story on the newly constructed NTPC flyover in Chandigarh where motorists remove the divider blocks to take a U-turn and don't put the blocks back, which leads to fatal accidents. Digging deep into the story, Radhika ends up interviewing some of these drivers who took a U-turn and on one night, when one of these motorists is found dead in his house, she ends up being the prime suspect. When police office Arjun Sinha (Priyanshu Painyuli) investigates the case, it is found that all other motorists that took a U-turn on that flyover in the last one year out of which some Radhika even met and interviewed, are dead. While the cops continue to suspect Radhika for all these murders, she just wants to prove herself innocent. Amid all this, there are supernatural activities which hint at a different story altogether.
The film engages you and keeps you on the edge of your seat and gives you chills in quite a few scenes, but weak writing, a poor script and meandering subplots make it look flawed. Though the story is more or less predictable, it's the climax and yet another twist post climax that make you sit back and take notice. But, don't complain even if it seems to be too little, too late.
Arif's direction isn't really bad, but the wafer-thin plot infused with supernatural elements never lets him do anything out of the box. At one hour 44 minutes, the film may not look stretched but it loses pace in between. Soon, Pawan Kumar's story starts to appear half-baked and works only in parts. It begins on a high note, creates curiosity, engages you initially, but falls flat in the second half. There are way too many needless, rather digressing subplots that could have been easily done away with. Radhika's mother, we are shown in one scene, is talking to her dead son, but that track is barely explored or we're told too little about it. It gives you chills but it lasts only for those few seconds. After a while, this whole supernatural track looks just unbelievably creepy. The so-not-scary jump scares are irritating and in the name of horror, we are once again fed the done to death tropes - heavy blowing winds, power cut, blinking lights, sudden hailstorm, metal clanking sounds, sudden knock at the door and so on.
Written by Parvez Sheikh and Radhika Anand, U-turn doesn't even boast of having any great dialogues or memorable one-liners. In fact, I can barely remember any line that stayed with me after the film. The one thing perhaps was when Manu Rishi Chadha's character repeatedly says, "Yeh sab hawaon ka chakkar hai, aapki aur meri samajh se pare'. Even the credit for that goes to Manu Rishi's humorous tone rather than clever writing. Anubhav Bansal's cinematography, to some extent, sets the tone right for the thriller and captures the city beautifully from all angles.
Amid all this, Alaya delivers a solid performance and turns out to be one of the most promising newcomers in recent times. She exudes confidence and looks effortless in both vulnerable as well as strong scenes. There's a natural flair in her acting and something very calming about her screen presence that it all looks very real and relatable. She brings a balance in her body language, expression and how she emotes on screen without going overboard. However, despite being the protagonist, I felt there are several places where the story and useless supernatural elements overshadow Alaya's performance. Other than Alaya, another performance that truly stands out is of Manu Rishi Chadda. The ease with which he performs on screen is a proof of brilliant acting and experience. Priyanshu is earnest in his act though there's only so much his character is given to perform. He has enough screen time but it never gets to the point where his character stands out or make an impact. As a cop, investigating serial murders, I sensed a lack of urgency and proactiveness in his body language and at places or maybe the character sketch never allows him to grow beyond a point. Among the other supporting cast, Aditya (Ashim Gulati), Alaya's friend at the newspaper office, HSP Saxena (Rajesh Sharma) are completely wasted and used as mere props - former for a blink-and-miss twist and latter for a comic relief.
U-Turn doesn't disappoint overall but definitely could have been a near-perfect watch with a better screenplay and a little more gripping story that didn't keep meandering from one end to another and losing pace in between. Watch it if you like thrillers, and don't let the jump scares startle you.