Irumbu Thirai Synopsis: Kathiravan, a major in the Indian army with anger management issues, is compelled by circumstances to borrow a loan from a bank with false documents. When the entire money in the account vanishes, Kathiravan tries to track down the scamsters, and it leads him to White Devil, a master hacker.
Irumbu Thirai Review: Given the recent controversial incidents involving Facebook-Cambridge Analytica, the shutting down of Ukrainian power stations by alleged Russian hackers, and even our very own Aadhaar Card, the topicality of Irumbuthirai’s theme – cyber crime – instantly makes it compelling. Like Thani Oruvan, this film, too, is about a cat-and-mouse game between an unstoppable force and an immovable object.
The force here is White Devil aka Sathyamoorthi, a master hacker, who, in the words of a character is “Digital world oda don”. And the object who is in his way of achieving his ultimate goal – of having every individual’s information in his hand – is Kathiravan, a major in the Indian army, who is sort of estranged from his family because of his father, Rangasamy’s compulsive borrowing habit. But Kathiravan is compelled by circumstances – he needs money to marry off his sister to her boyfriend – to take a loan from a bank with false documents. However, the entire amount vanishes from his account and a determined Kathiravan tries to track down the scamsters responsible for this. And that is how he comes in to the orbit of White Devil.
The linking of a few important scenes to money – a serial borrower dad, a loan collection agent with zero empathy, Kathiravan, who loathes borrowing, being forced to take a loan – are lovely touches. The conflict between Kathiravan and his father (Delhi Ganesh, in yet another effortlessly casual performance) is nicely brought out. When Kathiravan says, “Ungala adichiduven nu bayama irukkappa”, you can’t help but feel for both these characters.
The tense interval block peps up things (with a brief but impressive parkour-influenced stunt we get in the pre-interval scene) after a leisurely first half.
The dialogues on how banks are reluctant to lend loans to farmers or to students, how loan agents harass people who have borrowed small amounts, but let big fish like Vijay Mallaya to slip away, how the Aadhaar Card might be used as a weapon (White Devil remarks, “Bayamuruthala.. Nadakka poradha solren”) strike a chord. George Williams’s cinematography gives the film a sheen that makes it very slick.
But the film is definitely overlong, spending over 45 minutes on character development, which feels too long for a thriller like this one. Perhaps it is because of our filmmakers’ tendency to end the first half with a bang. Some economy in the storytelling could have propped up the film’s pace.
The whole anger management angle (Kathiravan’s has an infamous temper), which recalls a similar set-up in Maayavan, seems to be mainly to include the heroine character. The film could have just given us Kathiravan as a guy who goes after the mysterious criminal who has emptied his account, and we would have still rooted for him.
That said, Mithran is wise enough to avoid any duets between Kathiravan and Rathidevi. A song on Vishal seems to be there mainly for building up the hero, but the other song, which shows Kathiravan learning to enjoy the small things in life, feels fine. Yuvan Shankar Raja’s background score is quite effective.
But what makes the film compelling is how it treats its antagonist. White Devil isn’t even shown until the intermission point. We don’t even see his face! But we sense his presence in most of his scenes and that creates a sense of dread. The film smartly doesn’t give us a flashback justifying his motivation; he does his criminal activity just because he can, and he is unapologetic about it, which is refreshing.