Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Devil (Movie Review)

I greatly enjoyed M. Night Shyamalan's first two films, "The Sixth Sense" and "Unbreakable". But afterward, his films became somewhat formulaic and his "twist endings" more and more contrived or even forced. But the latest movie with his name on it seems to have taken a step back in the right direction. (Although he produced instead of directing it.)

The story centers on five people stuck in an elevator together, dealing with the fact that every time the lights mysteriously flicker out, one of them is attacked or killed horribly. Meanwhile, a police detective and building employees are working to get them out while also trying to figure out what is going on.

The movie is not a constant nail-biter, but the tension created when the attacker strikes and the paranoia of the elevator passengers is still pretty effective. There are also a couple of twists near the end which, while not truly shocking, do serve to keep an element or two unpredictable.

The movie has a nice, unsettling feeling from the very beginning, with its strange "upside down" opening credits. And shots within the elevator are often close-ups that draw viewers into the sense of claustrophobia.

There are very few digital effects, but some suitably gross gore effects. People die and die badly.

There is plenty to mull over as you walk away from this one. The setup for "Devil" asks you to assume that sometimes the Devil likes to walk the earth, gather up a few condemned people, then torture and kill them. Fairly off point from the Devil of the Bible (which the film implies its intention to portray by quoting 1st Peter at the opening of the film), making him more of a common "boogeyman" than the far more dangerous deceiver and manipulator he is more often described as. But "A", this is a Hollywood flick, so we can shrug our shoulders and move on and "B", Satan HAS been known to physically attack people, though with different motives than those in this movie. (See the book of "Job".)

Themes of sin, forgiveness and salvation (of a kind) are all present here and may come up with little conversational effort on the drive home. On the "salvation" front, a method of escaping the Devil is presented that basically involves admitting and taking responsibility for the wrongs you have done. Although this kind of "I'm sorry" salvation is still missing the vital atonement that only God, through Christ, can supply, it is still acknowledgment of one of the greatest barriers to belief in Christ. Self examination.

In order to trust a savior, you first have to acknowledge that you need one. Because we mistakenly equate our worth with our performance, we naturally avoid looking at our performance to avoid feeling worthless. But as "Devil" demonstrates, our sin makes us a target for punishment until we acknowledge it and take the necessary action to deal with it. In "Devil", this action is simply acknowledgment and genuine remorse. But the need for compensation for sin is still implied (possibly unintentionally) when the Devil asks one character, "Do you think you can do anything to make up for what you've done?" To which he answers, "No."

"Devil" is a cool movie (though not a fantastic one) that contains some important truth and lends itself to exploring some extremely valuable ideas.

Rated PG-13 for violence and disturbing images, thematic material and some language, including sexual references.

Quality: 8.5/10

Relevance: 9.5/10

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