A story of four strangers who have been invited by the reclusive Kabir Malhotra, to his private island of Samos, Greece. They don’t know each other and they don’t know him"¦ and by the next morning they will wish they had never come.

Whodunit slowly becomes who cares?

The Game is about what happens when a very rich man kills himself and leaves no will. Anyway, it looks like suicide, but it’s more likely murder. There are a number of very good suspects. All share some kind of past with the victim; all are dirty, some more than others, which means they have something to hide. Meanwhile, the bad guys are being pursued by a dogged cop and another bad guy who turns out to be the key suspect in the murder"¦ yet this particularly suave character seems more interested in revenge than in solving the crime. Why?

The Game then is a whodunit with enough plot for a half dozen more whodunits; the complications, intrigue and twists pile up, collide and ricochet off one another in a way that echoes its key dramatic detail – it’s a movie puzzle all to do with doubling. Here, trouble comes in pairs; the plotting all has to do with twins, two fathers, two daughters, two alternate versions of the truth etc.

The ambience and dramatic style owe a lot to TV mystery thrillers and Agatha Christie. I understand the movie has been pitched as an action thriller in the Bourne tradition and to be sure the narrative hops around the globe from Greece, to Mumbai, London and Bangkok, and there a couple of big and lengthy scenes of hand-to-hand combat and gunplay. But still, this is a story worked out in lavishly appointed rooms in lengthy dialogues where very smart sleuth-type characters bring their formidable intellect to bare in challenge to diabolical, but never the less inferior, criminal types.

Under the direction of Abhinay Deo, this is very much a Hindi/Bollywood version of the genre. There are musical numbers that 'stand-in’ for backstory; we hear the songs as a way entering the inner emotional lives of the characters. The screenplay by Althea Delmas Kaushal carefully builds on its premise; this is a movie all about facades. For instance, the suspects all are dependent on public lives and an image of integrity: There is the investigative journalist with a drinking problem, Tisha (Shahana Goswani); the popular film star, Vikram (Jimmy Shergil), who is scared the world will find out he once ran from a fatal hit and run; and then there’s Ramsey (Boman Irani), the seedy politician who wants to reinvent himself as"¦ well, less seedy. The one major character who does nothing to hide his nature, it seems, is Neil (Abhishek Bachchan), a drug dealer who at one time fell in love with Maya (Sarah Jane Dias), the beautiful daughter of billionaire Kabir Malhotra (Anupam Kher), whose suicide triggers the films action"¦ or did it?

Game keeps changing its own rules as it reaches its climax; it’s got, by my count, at least four big reveals/surprises in less than twenty minutes and I am not at all sure any of them make sense. That’s a pity, since it all should click together because the best puzzles do. Part of the fun of this kind of mystery/thriller is enjoying the way it works. It’s like the feeling you get from admiring a beautiful machine. But at the end of the Game, there are so many impossible-to-answer mysteries about how it all came together that it feels like there’s bits missing. Its own inner logic leaves too many plot issue puzzles. Of course, to fully explain that last point would give the game of the Game away. At this point, trust comes into play. Suffice to say that after a certain point here, hope that it all will make some kind of near perfect sense gets betrayed.


In Cinemas 01 April 2011,