There is a scene where Suriya's friend (played by Sathyan Sivakumar) explains to Suriya the 'lekka' by literally putting all the money on the table and taking out his share from the money on the table. That's how Vikram Kumar's narration is in this outstanding screenplay: everything is clearly explained.
The film begins with narrating a story set in 1990, the story of Siva Kumar (Suriya), a scientist out to invent a watch that has the capability to time travel. Athreya (Suriya, again) is his brother, separated at birth by 180 seconds, but diametrically opposite (that is, "180 degrees") in personality. The villainous brother arrives just in time to snatch the watch away from Siva Kumar, but the meek but sharp scientist finds an escape route for his toddler and the watch. The toddler grows up to be Mani (Suriya, again) and he realizes the greatness of the watch only 26 years later, thanks to a divine coincidence.
The way the time travel ability of the special watch is revealed to Mani as well as the audience is out of the world. Vikram Kumar has used comedy, topping it up with romance, to explain the concept. On the face of it, the scene where Mani goes to future and back in time to impress Sathya (Samantha) is an engaging rom-com scene, powered by a sci-fi element. But in reality, the director is using the scene as the introduction lesson for the audience to understand easily what is going to unfold.
Every time you lower your expectations for some reason or the other, Vikram surprises us with his class. After a character acts smart, the audience feels he has been outwitted. Before you know, you wonder, "How come I didn't see it coming?" Take the scene where Athreya pulls the wool over Mani's son by cleverly putting himself in danger. And edge-of-the-seat scene that is a text book case of how to excite the audience.
You can understand why the makers said the film is distinctly Indian in its soul. The family sentiments are all over, complete with a flashback that involves a whole family. The rom-com track overstays its welcome, something Indian, negatively so. Something that is definitely Indian cinema in its essence is the inane idea that a never-seen-before invention's Version 2.0 can be brought into existence only by this watch mechanic-son! Some such elements can be forgiven, though. Curious it might seem, but this could be an element the mass audience will find an immediate connect with.
In a long time, here is a film with a highly intelligent climax. The meticulous detailing in establishing a link with the initial scenes, is dreamy and surreal. It's also sentimental, reminding one of Nag's yearning to live with his parents in Manam. This is an element that many are going to find heart-touching.
Mainly for Athreya, 24 is going to be a film that people are going to add to the list of films that make them identify Suriya as a great performer. Playing a negative character for the first time, he has done a fantastic job. He has brought the dreadfulness of a ruthless baddie with his unique voice, gestures and body language. He is at his usual best in the other two positive characters. As Mani, Suriya shows his comic timing. As the innocent scientist, he shows his meekness and evokes sympathy.
Samantha does a fine job in the rom-com scenes; she strikes the right chemistry with Suriya. Nithya Menen in a brief role is impressive. Ajay gets a good role and as Athreya's trusted lieutenant, he looks every bit fit for the role. Saranya gets to play an elaborate role; as Mani's mother, she is so realistic. Sudha gets to play a good role after a long time. Harshavardhan has a cameo.
Rahman’s songs are pleasing to the ears and the way they have been shot in exotic foreign locales comes as a visual treat. Re-recording is apt in many scenes as the Oscar Nayagan knows where to play down and where to make us feel the presence of music.
Cinematographer Tirru’s visuals, Rahman’s apt music, art direction and VFX- all these intangible crew members have contributed equally to uplift the film. The Research lab set that includes a lot of precautionary facilities created by the scientist with some beautiful designs in it including a multi-purpose cradle for the kid. Production deisngers duo Amit and Subrato Rao give a thorough output.
There are some flips in the technical side too. The house and street of Mani, the cricket ground etc are far from authentic. There are also some palpable CG errors. In the scene where Athreya bashes up Siva Kumar, we could easily identify that it has been done by CG.
Verdict: A sci-fi with family sentiment thrown in. Gripping screenplay. The rom-com overstaying its welcome is a flaw that can be forgiven. Technically brilliant. At least four intelligent episodes will make you want to clap.