Friday, October 10, 2008

BEFORE THE DEVIL KNOWS YOU'RE DEAD (Sidney Lumet, 2007, USA) Sidney Lumet delivers his finest film in over 20 years; his last great film was THE VERDICT (1982) starring Paul Newman with a blistering screenplay by David Mamet. Here Lumet directs with a classic flourish giving the actors enough room to breath and develop into believable characters; the deliberate pacing and long takes help the viewer bond with Andy and Hank. The structure is rather straightforward with some flashback overlap as we experience the robbery from different perspectives. They just don’t make movies like this anymore! You will find no CGI, camera gimmicks, sappy score, or flash-cut editing tricks…all conventions of modern cinema that often hides the fact that a story is vacuous and empty of any real meaning. The family drama is left mostly unexplained and I think the mystery heightens the tension and makes the ending much more believable. Ethan Hawke is solid as the younger brother Hank but this is Philip Seymour Hoffman’s film and his is an Oscar worthy performance. Marisa Tomei is beautiful (as always) as Andy’s bubble-headed wife…but this draws my only strong complaint: the female characters are rather bland, one-dimensional, and lacking any unique personality. I would like to have some insight into their mother’s personality instead of her use as just a plot point. Albert Finney makes the final leap of disbelief possible for the view with a strong passionate performance as Andy and Hank’s grieving father. I just noticed on the IMDB website that Sidney Lumet has never won an Oscar! Tragedy! I guess he has good company with Hitchcock (Best Films don’t count…the award goes to the producer). Overall, a great film that your humble narrator highly recommends. (B)

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