Review: ‘2018: Everyone’s a Hero’ is an unexpectedly compelling disaster film

Examining the actions of ordinary individuals in extreme situations is a well-worn trope in film. 2018: Everyone is a Hero, a 2023 Indian Malayalam-language survival drama film by director Jude Anthany Joseph, subverts this trope with compelling storytelling that captures human stories and explores human resilience, community, and sacrifice. I went into this movie without preconceptions – I knew about the floods in Kerala but didn’t know about this story, the filmmakers, or the cast. 

[Editor’s note: There are mild spoilers ahead for 2018: Everyone is a Hero.]

An early scene that foreshadows the theme of the film

What quickly became apparent while watching 2018: Everyone is a Hero was just how threaded the film is with themes of humanity, triumph, and perseverance. Before the torrential rains that are themselves a character in the movie, amidst an angry sea, a desperate struggle unfolds. Fishermen, tossed by the waves and out of supplies, fight for their lives as a colossal cargo ship bears down on them, oblivious to their plight despite their signaling. The fishermen are ordinary people but work together to save each other in a harrowing situation. This rescue is a glimpse of the soul that infuses the rest of the movie.

It’s no wonder India selected 2018: Everyone is a Hero to represent their country as a contender for an Oscar nomination in advance of the 96th Academy Awards. 2018: Everyone is a Hero, written and directed by Jude Anthany Joseph, is a compelling story of hope and community amidst a harrowing disaster of ultimately man’s own making. 

The film 2018: Everyone is a Hero isn’t just fiction

The events of 2018 are dramatized based on a real-life situation that happened unexpectedly in Kerala, India. In 2018: Everyone is a Hero —the monsoon season brought the worst floods of almost a century in the southern Indian province. Many died, more than a million people were evacuated, and many people lost everything in a traumatic event that still reverberates through the cultural psyche of Kerala. What the film 2018: Everyone is a Hero does so well is portray the scale, the stakes, and the human element of survival, resilience, and community during this tragedy. It handles the events with due weight and respect. 

A compelling survival drama

Jude Anthany Joseph and his crew weren’t content with just telling the human story of 2018 on a small stage. They wielded movie magic to make the disaster’s scale feel real and visceral. Akhil George’s cinematography honed on the twisty thriller CBI 5: The Brain and Kala, skillfully frame the events. 

In good storytelling, whether television or film, you have to show the audience what is happening, not just tell them. In disaster survival movies, this is especially true. Everest wouldn’t be Everest without the bone-chilling mountain peaks and unforgiving snowy and windy weather. Titanic wouldn’t be Titanic without the rushing cold ocean water. And the upcoming film Ordinary Angels wouldn’t be the same without understanding the snow standing in the way of a 3-year-old’s much-needed transplant. 

Image courtesy of 2018: Everyone is a Hero.


2018 gets it. This is unsurprising given that director Jude Anthany Joseph and many others lived through the events. The team behind the film wields masterful water effects, seamlessly blending CGI and practical wizardry to put right into the heart of Kerala’s terrifying moments. The film’s dramatic rescues, particularly the pivotal helicopter sequence, are executed with skill and movie magic too. Vishnu Govind’s sound design amplifies the stakes. And to make it all feel even more intense, Nobin Paul and William Francis’s soundtrack swells with dramatic orchestral swings and occasional stirring string solos, perfectly complementing the story unfolding on screen. 

The result? 2018: Everyone is a Hero is a survival film that’s not just about getting through the physical waters of the flood (and avoiding a scary snake!) – it’s about the human spirit, resilience, and the everyday heroes who rise when the water does. It’s about Kerala, and it’s also universal. 

Talented cast in 2018

2018: Everyone’s a Hero follows four narratives from a small town, but the standout hero of the film, and indeed the thread around which the latter half of the film coalesces, is Tovino Thomas. English audiences may not be familiar with Tovino Thomas, but he’s a mainstay of Indian cinema. Thomas starred in Netflix’s superhero movie Minnal Murali, about a lightning-struck tailor. He plays a young man who has escaped his military service with a fake medical exemption who plans to escape the country. 

Anoop’s story unfolds with intention, each step guided by rising bravery and the weight of loss. His journey culminates in an ending tinged with both sorrow and triumph, leaving a lasting impression on both the characters around him and the audience watching.. It is not an unexpected ending, but unpredictability is not the point of Anoop or the film. Watching Anoop step up and get there is part of what makes 2018: Everyone is a Hero so emotionally touching. 

Deeply impactful stories

The other stories are also deeply impactful – with narratives that cross multiple strata of society. Nixon (played by Asif Ali) and Jiji’s (Gilu Joseph) love story and the moments of community it inspires among the fisher people are relevant and socially forward. Asif Ali manages to telegraph Nixon’s wish for a bigger life quite effectively, too. As Nixon’s father, Mathachan, Lal delivers a performance beyond mere paternal pride and relatable familial tension. His bravery, rooted in the strength of his community bonds, sets a powerful example for those around him.

Image courtesy 2018: Everyone is a Hero.


Every moment that Indrans was on screen as Bhasi was played with powerful vulnerability and wisdom. Aparna Balamurali gave a magnificent performance as Noora, too. News reports punctuated 2018: Everyone is a Hero and helped provide a sense of the ticking clock, particularly with the Idukki Dam. Because of the strong performance, I wanted more screen time for Noora. 

Moments of sprawl, but still, it shows why the genre has appeal.

With all that said, 2018: Everyone is a Hero isn’t perfect; there are moments when we are lost in everyday life and buildup to the rains. We feel for the characters; they have interesting stories with heart, but you wonder why we spend so much time on them and how they will come together and eventually intersect. (This, too, was the case with the recent animated series Scavengers Reign.) But the long backstories are hard to avoid with a big ensemble cast and the sprawling number of characters in the film, each needing screen time. And I wanted more from the development of the women characters in the movie. Still, 2018: Everyone is a Hero is a great example of what the genre can do and why it has enduring appeal. And for the people of Kerala, the film has more importance. 

Final thoughts on Jude Anthany Joseph’s 2018: Everyone is a Hero

2018: Everyone is a Hero is not a movie where larger-than-life spandex-clad superpowered heroes save us from an Earth-ending alien like Thanos. 2018: Everyone is a Hero celebrates the ordinary heroism and the everyday people who find extraordinary strength when the world feels like it’s coming apart at the seams around them. It is a story of resilience where each act of kindness and each shared breath is an entry in a piece of art that is a powerful testament to the human spirit.

Image courtesy of 2018: Everyone is a Hero.


Yes, 2018 is about Kerala and the unimaginable tragedy and heroic sacrifice. But it’s also a universal story – a warning for us on planet Earth about what could become and a lens through which the everyday goodness of people is magnified. My only wish for 2018: Everyone Is a Hero is to have had the chance to see it on the big screen.

How to watch 2018: Everyone’s a Hero

You can learn more about 2018 by visiting the move’s website.  The movie is playing in selected theaters, and is available online through Sony LIV. If you’ve already seen the movie, join the conversation by leaving a comment or by connecting with us on X @MoviesWeTexted.

Aayush Sharma recently reviewed Hirokazu Kore’da’s film Monster and Russell Miller recently reviewed the Italian film The Eight Mountains. 

For more international releases, check out our international movie reviews category.