Friday, September 17, 2010

DEVIL - Shyamalan's Guessing Game

DEVIL (mystery thriller)
Cast: Chris Messina, Geoffrey Arend, Logan Marshall-Green, Bojana Novakovic, Jenny O'Hara, Bokeem Woodbine, Jacob Vargas, Caroline Dhavernas, Matt Craven, Kim Roberts
Directors: Drew Dowdle and John Erick Dowdle
Screenplay: Brian Nelson from a story by M. Night Shyamalan
Time: 80 mins
Rating: * * 1/2 (out of 4)

Trapped, from left: Bojana Novakovic, Jenny O'Hara, Bokeem Woodbine,
Logan Marshall-Green and Geoffrey Arend

PREAMBLE: Movie reviewers are seldom asked to sign pledges of embargo not to publish their reviews before the official release of the film in the cinemas. Recently, however, we have been asked to sign two embargo pledges: for Resident Evil: Afterlife and Devil. The reason for the embargo on Devil was ostensibly to prevent spoilers that will give away the plot twist!

Now, anyone who has seen the trailer or the movie poster would realise that if any spoiler exists, it is in the title: Devil. The real reason for this embargo, I suspect, could be to downplay the involvement of the writer: M. Night Shyamalan. After The Last Airbender, Shyamalan's name does not totally inspire excitement and cheers. A YouTube video posted by Perez Hilton last July showed the audience laughing out loud at the Devil trailer during a screening of "Inception." The offending moment came when audiences caught a glimpse of the words "From the Mind of M. Night Shyamalan."

WHAT'S IT ABOUT? What comes from Shyamalan's mind (depicted in his thriller series, The Night Chronicles) is a story of a group of people (played by Geoffrey Arend, Bojana Novakovic, Jenny O'Hara, Bokeem Woodbine and Logan Marshall-Green) trapped in a high-rise elevator. When the passengers suddenly start dying one by one, we are told that one of them is really the Devil in disguise. So the guessing game starts...

HITS & MISSES: Like many of Shyamalan's stories (especially The Sixth Sense), once you catch on to the 'twist', that's it. There isn't much else in the plot to sustain your interest. In Devil, however, directors Drew and John Erick Dowdle (of Quarantine fame) sustain our interest by slowly revealing the backgrounds of each of the trapped characters, especially to Detective Bowden (Chris Messina, pic left) who has a tragic past himself. However, every time the lights of the lift are out, something drastic happens and after a while, we feel cheated. Why does the Devil need darkness to do his deed? Still, the directors do and each time it happens the plot advances and the guessing game deepens.

The cast of relative unknowns acquit themselves admirably, with Marshall-Green and Ms Novakovic providing most of the tension. The opening credits are impressive, though, with shots of Philadelphia's cityscape upside-down and evoking a mood of foreboding to the movie.

THE LOWDOWN: A Shyamalan guessing game. Are you game for it?


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