Friday, October 09, 2009

Before the Devil Knows You're Dead

(Movie Review)

After watching a lot of junk recently, here is a movie that was very highly critically acclaimed.

Among the positive reviews was Roger Ebert (link here) who wrote:

"Sidney Lumet's "Before the Devil Knows You're Dead" is such a superb crime melodrama that I almost want to leave it at that. To just stop writing right now and advise you to go out and see it as soon as you can. I so much want to avoid revealing plot points that I don't even want to risk my usual strategy of oblique hints. You deserve to walk into this one cold."

I'd agree with that actually. This film has a lot of different layers in it. As much as it's possible these days to walk into a film without knowing anything, you should try it with this film.

All the characters, their motivations, and their relationships to each other is revealed gradually in this film by jumping around in time. We get to see the climax right off the bat, but what led up to it is slowly revealed through a lot of scenes that each act as one more piece in the puzzle.

So, if you want to see this film as it was intended, don't read my review first. (And actually, don't read Ebert's review either. He breaks his own rules).

If you're still reading:
This is one of those films that is shown all out of order.
This is a gimmick, of course, and in the post-Tarantino age, it's a fairly common, even over-used gimmick.

In this case, it's used to add on layers of motivation to the characters even after we already know the story. Which is interesting, although I appreciated it more in repeat viewings than I did the first time through. The first time through I wanted the story to get on with itself, and I wanted to find out what happens next. In that respect, the fact that the movie keeps jumping back in time really kills the forward momentum of the story.

The story itself is a little hard to believe. I had a hard time believing the characters could be so stupid as to do everything they did.
Although some of the reviews I've read view the examination into criminal stupidity as a positive. But personally I just never really bought it.

What makes this movie is that the acting and directing are amazing. And again, this is something I only really appreciated on repeat viewings. The first time I saw this movie, I was so frustrated that the story wasn't moving that I couldn't appreciate how wonderfully each scene was acted in. But I watched it a few more times before I returned it to the video store, and it slowly began to sink in. Everyone in this movie does a great job. Philip Seymour Hoffman is brilliant, as always, but Ethan Hawke also puts in an excellent job.

Almost every review you read about this movie praises the long career of director Sidney Lumet. I had never heard of him before, but reading his filmography (W) I have seen a couple of his films before. ("12 Angry Men" and "Network").

Link of the Day
Noam Chomsky on "Antipolitics"
and Rachel Maddow: Blue Dog Mike Ross Pocketed Over $1 Million from Pharmacy Chain USA Drug
and Eric Cantor's insane rant at a Town Hall meeting. Just go broke and find a government program to help you or beg for charity

No comments: