Torab El-Mas: A Deeper Look at the Affluent Strata of the Egyptian Society

★★★★☆

Following the legal clashes that have hindered the production of the project for years, this Eid has marked the release of the cinematic adaptation of the acclaimed novel Torab El-Mas. Since the novel’s release back in 2010, audience has been eager to eye the enticing proceedings of the book on the big screen, and finally, the film has come to light, featuring a star-studded cast with Asser Yassin, Menna Shalaby, Maged El-Kedwany and Eyad Nassar in the leading roles.

The film trails the story of a thirty-something pharmacist named Taha El-Zahar, who enjoys an amicable life with his half-paralyzed father in the peaceful neighborhoods of downtown Cairo. However, his life goes awry when a series of peculiar murders take place, unveiling an unexplored chapter in his family’s chronicles, which demolishes his world and shatters his beliefs, all because of diamond dust.

After they’ve previously joined forces on the sets of 2014’s The Blue Elephant and last year’s El-Aslyeen, this venture marks the third collaboration between director Marwan Hamed and novelist Ahmed Mourad. This endeavor, however, veers far from its predecessors as it renders a story that took place in the year 2010, which had Mourad, in his third cinematic script, tweak the story a little bit to go along the alterations that occurred during that interval. So, in addition to overhauling the book’s proceedings to be conveyed to a cinematic material, Mourad had to go the extra mile to embellish the story of his 8-year-old novel for the audience to relate to. This had him shed light on the power of social media and televised programs that culminated on the back of 2011’s political revolts, in addition to making use of the prevalence of electronic tablets and selfies in our routines by integrating them in a couple of scenes, despite their absence in the novel.

On a similar note, the film doesn’t comprise the sheer explicitness of the novel in regards to dialogue and gore, being a seasonal production that targets Eid’s audience. Nevertheless, it depicts some disturbing sequences that adequately employed shaky camera and handheld shots to discreetly engender jitters and tautness without excessive graphic imagery. Likewise, the film was also quite acute in its portrayal of the tacky demeanors of its characters as well as the sex-related issues it tackle, which slammed it a +18 rating, but won’t probably hold it back from outclassing this season’s flicks.

In addition to its main crime/thriller plot, Torab El-Mas sheds light on the evolution of the political status in Egypt on the course of the past 65 years and its impact on the society, which was reflected on the film’s bona-fide characters. Although all the acting performances were exquisite, one must acknowledge the exertions of the underrated Ahmed Kamal, whose bleak impersonation of Hussein El-Zahar has depicted the hardships of Egypt’s citizenry along the years with a subtle yet grandiose performance that had his on-screen portrayals and auditory voiceovers stand out. Similarly, Maged El-Kedwani’s embodiment manifests his talent once again with a commendable depiction that sways between subtle comedy and agitated cruelty, sending chills down our spine. Last but not least, Torab El-Mas definitely marks a major milestone in the career of Asser Yassin, who has imbibed his character’s traits and struggles to adequately materialize the fictional protagonist Taha El-Zahar on screen despite the serene nature of the role, which will surely aid him to land starring roles in his impending projects.

In regards to the technical aspects of the film, it’s fair to say that Torab El-Mas is, to a great extent, a reminiscent of 2014’s The Blue Elephant. Such resemblances are made evident in the mutual gloominess of the vital dialogues, and the shared noir-like theme, not to mention the score of Hesham Nazih with its meld of ambient sounds and rhythmical tones, very much alike his auditory work in The Blue Elephant with the same gripping patterns. Additionally, this flick has also followed the steps of The Blue Elephant in the buildup of the relationship between the protagonist and the lead female character, utilizing their melancholies to bolster their linkup and give it enough thrust to power towards the latter chapters, as has happened in the 2014 film.

Nevertheless, this film has made the most out of its plot to yield an impeccable visual experience, which culminated in Marwan Hamed’s flamboyant framings of downtown Cairo, and the riveting historic sequence that exhibited the chronicles of Egypt while unfolding Hussein El-Zahar’s background. Not only was this icing on the cake, but it has also marked the peak of Hamed’s career as a masterful virtuoso who keeps raising the bar high with every project he directs, eclipsing all his contenders.

In a nearly three-hour production, Torab El-Mas sheds light on the corruption of the affluent segments of the Egyptian society, and how it could push the underprivileged individuals over the edge. However, it also shows how messy things could get if people have decided to solely take matter into their own hands and right these wrongs the way they see fit. It’s a top-notch film and it’s definitely one of the better films that the Egyptian has yielded in the last decade, so make sure you book a ticket to experience it on the big screen this Eid!

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