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Devil (Sans Twist)

At this point it's a fairly well-known joke that M. Night Shyamalan's movie formula concludes with some sort of mind-bending, life-altering "twist" at the end of each film. While this joke (like any stereotype or cliche) is grounded in truth, it completely over-looks Shyamalan's skill as a story-teller.

Let me pause here while many of you become riled up.

I'm not, by any means, saying that Shyamalan is the best director. I'm also not saying that you need to like his movies. What I am saying is that he has immense talent for crafting a story.

There are few writers out there in Hollywood who are as accomplished as Shyamalan. Throughout each of his movies, there are clues and hints and layers of subtext that he communicates both visually and through carefully structured dialog. Seriously. Like the plots or not, he is a great writer.

When Shyamalan became a known entity in Hollywood, the other major component of his films (aside from the twist) was his non-American pacing; look back at The Sixth Sense or Unbreakable and you'll find movies that move along slowly, precisely, even meditatively. This snail's pace allows the audience to really THINK ABOUT what's happening. They should be immersed in the movie and catching those subtle, intentional semantic choices Shyamalan makes with language and dialog.

Sometimes, all I want is a movie that pokes at my brain and makes me actually work to figure out what's going on.

Now, maybe it's the pressure of overcoming the joke he's become but Shyamalan has really been phoning it in. I decided to watch Devil (his most recent writing effort - he did not direct this one), despite feeling Shyamalan had already done his best work. I didn't have much in the way of expectations, which is good, because I would have been more annoyed at the end of the movie had I expectations to compare it to.

While prepping to write this blog, I thought a lot about my intro paragraph and how best to sum up Devil and could come up with nothing better than the following:

This is my completely dispassionate review of the movie Devil. I felt so little about it that when the credits rolled I didn't even both to rate the title (on my Netflix). The movie wasn't especially bad; I just didn't like it.

I guess there's nowhere but up to go from such a brilliantly pathetic opening, so let me try to tackle a few specifics about the movie.

The Cast

The majority of the cast falls into that B-list, sort-of-famous bucket. You'll likely recognize the star (Chris Messina) from Damages but don't expect the same level of performance out of him. I don't know if he was sleeping through rehearsal on this movie or he just wasn't feeling it or maybe the directing team just didn't know how to guide their actors. You'll also probably recognize Logan Marshall-Green (who came to a messy end in Prometheus), who doesn't really have a huge range but, he's so charming and plays "genuine" better than most do. He's really great at conveying, "I'm just a guy trying to do my thing and I'm not complicated so I'm not hiding anything and you can really, truly just trust me."

The Plot

Just left me rolling my eyes. I think this goes back to something I was writing about recently which is that I'm completely un-moved by religious stories, motivations, plots, whatever. I couldn't really get into this movie because the concept of The Devil just doesn't scare me. The two-ish twists were poorly written and hardly innovative. 

The Setting

I will admit that the cinematography and set locations had some interesting elements; shooting primarily inside an elevator is ambitious, to say the least. I won't go so far as to call it completely successful but it did allow for some of the necessary claustrophobia needed to fuel the story. The outdoor shots of the city were reminiscent of The Devil's Advocate and carried some of the same malice-tinged loneliness and frightening desperation we each sometimes feel. 

Alright - I'm honestly hard-pressed to write much more on this one so, check out the trailer and watch the movie at your own risk (of immense boredom).



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