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The Family Man (2019)
The Family Man is both an espionage thriller and a comedy-drama
The 10-part web-series is already one to watch out for, especially for anyone who has appreciates the director-duos previous work. However, if you have ever enjoyed the talented Bajpayee's performances in anything he's been seen in before, 'The Family Man' will not leave you disappointed.
Bajpayee, quite simply, excels when playing Srikant Tiwari. His duty as an intelligence agency worker is something he takes very seriously but he's conscious that his responsibilities as a husband and father sometimes end up falling short. However, if the first few episodes are anything to go by, then Bajpayee's rendition shows how at ease he is between both of his character's life roles. He transitioned with sometimes a hint of comedy and sometimes some difficulty but it's a truly engaging watch to see how different his life is between the two.
As far as the ensemble cast goes, Priyamani plays Srikant's wife who has no idea that her husband holds such a position in his professional life. She is unbelievably comfortable playing this role and her chemistry with her on-screen colleague Sharad Kelkar is quite a fascinating watch. Other members of the cast include Darshan Kumar who is always just exquisite in whatever part her chooses to take on, Dalip Tahil, Neeraj Madhav and Sharib Hashmi. The two children artistes who play Srikant's children - Mehak Thakur and Vedant Sinha - are also fabulous in their roles, playing their father to their needs as they see fit. All of those and more add their level best to the story which remains an interesting watch, as you get sucked into the world the series creates.
Credit for this luring feeling goes to the directors who make it impossible for a viewer to switch away from the storyline. The drama, thrill and comedy comes together with such ease that you can't seem to falter at any point and say that you are not engaged.
Gerald's Game (2017)
A tense, terrifying thriller anchored by a career-best performance from its lead
We meet Gerald and Jessie at a time of crisis in their marriage. We watch Gerald pack for a make-or-break trip to their holiday home in the sticks. Handcuffs are the final item he throws in his bag, hoping that a sex game will spice things up, and rekindle the flame that has long gone out.
What follows is lots of set-up, involving a stray dog, some fresh meat, a door mistakenly being left open - that kind of thing. We're told that Gerald has prepared everything in advance, so there will be no maid, gardener or visiting friends to interrupt their fun. Oh, and those hand-cuffs are particularly strong, and soon tethered to bed-posts that are re-enforced.
But the sex game almost immediately goes wrong, with an argument breaking out that turns violent. Gerald has a heart attack and drops dead with Jessie still tied to the bed. And all those set-ups start to pay off, the horrors that Jessie experiences physical as her body breaks down and that dog pays her a visit. And mental as she starts to lose her mind via dreams, nightmares and terrifying hallucinations. Gerald who comes back from the dead, both help and taunt her. It's a smart dramatic device, allowing the film to fully explore the misery that has engulfed their marriage via heated conversations and revealing flashbacks.
Flashbacks also allow the film to leave the bedroom whenever claustrophobia sets in. Though when Jessie's visions take her back to childhood, and a terrible incident during a solar eclipse, it's so horrific that you'll be wanting to return to that bed in the present. Flanagan rings every drop of suspense out of the situation, turning a glass of water traversing across a shelf into a tense action scene, and shooting an incredibly gory sequence late in proceedings that will live long in the memory. And also have audiences reaching for the sick bag.
As well as being creative visually, the success of Gerald's Game is just as dependent on its cast. And mercifully, the film strikes gold on both fronts. Bruce Greenwood - sporting some SERIOUS abs - makes the most of Gerald's expanded role. He's charm personified early on so you can see why Jessie first fell for him. Then layer after layer is peeled away to reveal his true self, and you can see why their marriage is dead. In Jessie's mind, at least. And Carla Gugino is quite simply magnificent as Jessie. It's a complex role, the character talking to herself for much of the film; tough and ruthless one minute, terrified and confused the next. But Gugino pulls it off, her brave efforts turning Jessie into a horror heroine for the ages.