Fantastic Fest Review: All Choices Should Lead To MONSOON SHOOTOUT

To shoot or not to shoot? That is the MONSOON question.

Adi is a young, idealistic detective on his first day on the job. Almost immediately, his innocence gets shattered as he witnesses his superior officer drive two suspects out into the country, where he coldly executes them and forces Adi to participate in the cover up.

Later that night, Adi takes part in a foot chase with a suspected criminal named Shiva, who may or may not be a hatchet-wielding executioner for a dangerous slumlord. A crucial point arrives in the chase where Adi must either shoot Shiva or let him go. Each choice is burdened with heavier consequences than Adi can even begin to consider in that one moment, but he must act anyway.

Monsoon Shootout takes us through the aftermath of four different possible outcomes from this moment. But it's not quite as simple as "What if Adi shoots Shiva?" or "What if Adi lets him go?" Within these broad outcomes, the film also adds wrinkles that further illustrate how little information he has to help guide his choice. The Shiva Adi shoots is very different from the Shiva he let's loose, for instance. What if Shiva is innocent? What if Shiva is a hardboiled killer? What if Shiva is just a regular guy looking to crime for an escape from poverty?

Written and directed by Amit Kumar, Monsoon Shootout is a film filled with guns, violence, and heavy thunderstorms, but it is really a philosophical rumination on the unfriendly nature of choice. The scenarios we see are all quite different but mirror each other just enough to illustrate just how deeply this choice reverberates. Kumar never executes these similarities with winking cuteness, though he easily could have.

The rub is that for all the apocalyptic consequences we see played out, there is no right choice presented. Even the best case scenario for Adi has him losing his soul and still ends with a pile of dead bodies, leaving us with the even more nihilistic notion that for all this heaviness, it might not even matter what he chooses. One might assume the final outcome we see is the true, canon, outcome. But it's not really any more or less real than the others presented. It just comes last.

This is a film which utilizes a remarkably simple setup only to ultimately reveal limitless depth. We see just four outcomes. Surely there are more. And what of the film's crucial first scene, in which Avi witness those executions and learns how deep the corruption in his line of work runs? How does seeing that affect whichever choice he makes later that night with Shiva? And what about a million other possible scenes before that we don't see? We don't know, but we are invited to ponder such questions. We can obviously do that with all films, but by equating all realities, Monsoon Shootout makes this kind of inquiry his film's entire point.

Kumar's Mumbai stands riddled with crime, corruption, and poverty, yet still looks beautiful. The film also boasts incredible sound design and utilizes a cast that must replay the same roles, but with subtle deviations that make certain some fundamental change without creating a new character altogether.

Monsoon Shootout is an exciting film, both in form and function. I went in expecting an action film or at least a traditional crime thriller, but got neither of those things, though it features aspects of both. I found it approximately one thousand times better than Sliding Doors.