We know you…better than you think. By perusing this blog it is obvious you enjoy the better things in life. Beautiful design, art, music, and cinema are important to you. You wouldn’t be caught dead exiting a darkened theater where the plot of a movie involves endless explosions or relies solely on special effects to tell a story. You want a tale of the human condition.
When you read the description on the back of the dvd for Before The Devil Knows You’re Dead (THINKfilm 2007) you see the words robbery and murder….wait…don’t put it back on the shelf. This movie is worthy of your time. Directed by the legendary Sidney Lumet (12 Angry Men, Serpico, Network, Dog Day Afternoon) who presents the storyline in non-chronological order and from multiple viewpoints, the film is an excellent study of Philip Seymour Hoffman’s main character who cracks under pressure. (Hint… the pressure is from the words robbery and murder… also drugs and infidelity. This character has all the fun). A scene involving Mr. Hoffman and Marisa Tomei in a car is a major turning point in the film and as Sidney Lumet describes…”is one of the most compellingly acted scenes he has ever filmed.” Philip Seymour Hoffman proves once again, to be one of the best male actors of our generation in this film.
There is also a lot of Sidney Lumet in this movie. He is known for a methodical approach to directing, from pre-production through to the editing and sound. It is clear that this story is well-told not only by Hoffman’s genius, but by the partnership he shares with a brilliant director who uses cinematography to present points of view that clarify the backwards unfolding the viewer experiences watching this story. One scene in particular, where Hoffman sits, fused in a chair by a drug induced malaise at the apartment of his dealer reciting a monologue, is perhaps one of the most brilliant examples of what camera angling and movement can do for an actor and for a film.
The supporting characters are also well cast with Ethan Hawke, Ms. Tomei, and Albert Finney. The story does have some holes in it and there are some odd moments that will have you scratching your head, but take our advice, focus on Mr. Hoffman and his futile descent from a plan gone awry. If you do that and appreciate the non-linear presentation of the story then your fine cinema reputation will remain in tact.
Michael Spurrier. HighStreet. Cincinnati