**** (out of four stars)
When talk of Devil first emerged I completely wrote it off. With M. Night's name attached I wanted nothing to do with it. The guy is like a disease. There was one problem though. The trailer looked so damn good. After some research I noticed John Erick Dowdle had directed it. I liked Quarantine and I can't wait to see The Poughkeepsie Tapes. So on a Friday night, with little to do I said, "What the hell". Besides, it won't be the first or last time I waste a good $11 on a movie ticket.
The film is about five strangers who become stuck in an elevator. We soon find out that all of the strangers have sketchy pasts. A thief, a liar, a thug, a crooked salesman, and an ex-military person (who we later find out also has a violent past) are among the group. Not a good mix when trapped together. Once the story begins to unfold, the passengers die one by one after a series of power outages. The lights go out and when they come back on somebody is dead. Now it's a guessing game as to who (or what) is causing all the carnage.
Chris Messina plays Detective Bowden who we find out lost his family in an automobile accident. The other drive was drunk but was never apprehended. After a series of unfortunate events, Bowden is the man who is now in charge of the faulty elevator and our strange persons aboard it. I loved this character. Chris Messina does a great job as a detective. In one scene he's told a story by one of the security guards (Jacob Vargas) about the devil coming to earth and wreaking havoc - turning people against one another and making them do things they normally wouldn't. At first he's apprehensive about it, but later starts to indulge in the theory that there could be something far more dangerous in the elevator than the humans. To me this made his character a little more human. When unexplained happenings take place, you might have to put aside your skepticism and see things through a different perspective.
Logan Marshall-Green, Jenny O'Hara, Bojana Novakovic, Bokeem Woodbine and Geoffrey Arend make up the cast of characters in the elevator. Each character has a level of mystery behind them. As the film continues so does the paranoia. Each character is taking it upon themselves to point the finger at each other. I love how you have this simple story of five strangers trapped when any one of them could be doing the killing. It's like one giant head game. All the characters in this film are flushed out so well. Everyone has a place and not one page of the script is wasted with convoluted, unwanted story lines. A masterfully written story by screenwriter, Brian Nelson.
Keep your eye out for director John Erick Dowdle. This guy is making quality films. His direction in Devil is as tight as you can get it. He does a fine job of conveying atmosphere in a small elevator. As a viewer we're left in isolation, which sparks those great elements of atmosphere and suspense. It is what's going on in the elevator that keeps the story moving with ease and brilliance. It's only when we venture out of the elevator to the other characters that we can take a moment to breath. With a less competent director this film may not have been so effective to me.
Devil is a well directed, and well written suspense story. I'd like to think of it as a homage to Hitchcock. It works well for a lazy Saturday afternoon. Again, don't be worried or swayed from watching this film because M. Night's name is attached. He's only responsible for the story. But it is one hell of a tale if I have to say so myself. This is the first of three films in the "Night Chronicles". I'm looking forward to the other two.
Starring: Chris Messina, Logan Marshall-Green, Jenny O'Hara
Directed by: John Erick Dowdle
Written by: Brian Nelson
Story by: M. Night Shyamalan
1hr 21 mins