What happens to people trapped in temperatures below zero? Mili, a Hindi remake of Helen from Malayalam (directed by Xavier Mathukutty), makes us helpless spectators of the horrors its lead character goes through. She wakes up to the realization that she is alone in a walk-in freezer at a fast food restaurant, that no one can hear her frantic cries for help because the restaurant’s doors are locked, and that the mall where it is set has gone dark and been abandoned for the night.
The plight of Mili seems terrifyingly real. She finds herself trapped, her extremities turning red, then black, with frostbite, her entire body being buffeted by the extreme cold—human error and carelessness are a deadly combination. Can she survive the night?
The astonishing resilience of the human spirit is celebrated in survival thrillers, which can be edge-of-the-seat experiences that feature the impossible circumstances in which brave people find themselves, such as being trapped in narrow snowy crevices where they must chop off a limb to survive or gnawing at unmentionable things while stranded on an island. The best are able to build just the right amount of tension and rhythm. The 2019 Malayalam adaptation, directed by the same person who directed Mili, is too long. In some places, the pace slows down, and bloat becomes the issue.
There are intriguing subtleties with regards to here. Mili Naudiyal, played by Janhvi Kapoor, is a faithful daughter from Dehradun. Manoj Pahwa’s loving father shares her dreams of moving to Canada to work as a trained nurse for a good salary, but Sunny Kaushal’s jobless boyfriend is not mentioned. At the fast-food joint where she works, the manager (Kochchar) is a raucous brat. However, her coworkers, particularly Hasleen (Hasleen Kaur), who looks out for her, are friendly.
The misogyny that manages to surface during the ongoing search for Mili is also interesting. Anurag Arora, a belligerent police officer, never misses an opportunity to slam young women who are out “at night” with their boyfriends and who work late. But he uses too much force, which is annoying, and the fact that Sanjay Suri, a good cop, shows up just in time feels like a quick trick.
Kapoor is sincere in her portrayal of Mili, who learns to overcome impossible odds with the companionship of a lovable rodent. The film ought to have been tight, and that would have improved it, Too few times did I speak from my heart. (Watch the movie on Netflix)