Watching Key is like watching an exotic bird being killed. Feather by feather.
The crew behind Key ought to be lauded for the fresh, ground-breaking idea behind the film, and also for having been able to summon the technical resources to make this a fine-looking and fine-sounding product. At the very least, the film is going to the grave dressed tastefully.
Equipped with a fascinating premise, the makers of Key set up a stage for what promises to be an intriguing thriller. Then, having no idea how to tame the animal they've set loose, they let atrocious dialogue and awkward pacing take over, while you watch on. Helpless. Wanting to cry out for someone to save this thing-that-could-have-been-something-awesome.
Key has pacing problems right from the word go. The movie opens with a leisurely sequence of a bunch of young men and women, dressed in sharp business suits, being seated in an examination hall.
Jagapathi Babu, who plays a man who calls himself the invigilator, walks in and announces the rules, before leaving the hall. The candidates in the room, he says, are here for the final exam, having been through a stringent selection process. The company they've applied to needs only one of them, and they now all have to answer their question paper within the next 90 minutes.
Only, there's no sign of a question anywhere. Much brainstorming and smart reasoning ought to follow, in this scary test for that mysterious job. You're also waiting to see what exactly the job is, and what larger plan is lurking behind this eerie activity.
Instead, what you're mostly shown is an advertisement for business formals.
Key does have brain-wracking moments and intelligent deductions, to be sure, but what spoils the show is amateurish dialogue delivered by painfully inept actors. The interplay among the actors seems ill-coordinated and like a stage play, with actors saying the most obvious things aloud and speaking after ages after one another.
There is also the problem of an unclear sense of direction about where the story is headed. The finale is pretty tame, for the kind of escalating drama that happens throughout the movie.
Among the cast, it is only news anchors Deepti Vajpayee and Swapna who are pretty good, with the former having more room for emotion in her role. The men are given expressions and quirks that are meant to be funny but are not. An example is the junior scientist who keeps at his "You see, I am a junior scientist".
A haunting background score that intermittently rises into crescendos, and technically superlative cinematography make this seem like a better film than it actually is.
We would have loved to recommend Key, but we simply cannot agree with a film that wants to be all cerebral but that stars a "magic bullet" (FYI, it is one that contains a medicine to heal the wound that the same bullet causes).