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Devil: A Throwback Horror Clinger
In one of cinema’s most ironic twists, Devil’s reason for existence turned out to be its own worst enemy. The blessing of M. Night Shyamalan, director of the brilliant The Sixth Sense and a whole bunch of other loathed films, puts Devil in the unfortunate position of having to overcome Shyamalan’s own baggage to earn viewers’ interest. This is a shame; as Devil is a truly gripping horror thriller free of Shyamalan’s usual off-putting pretences.
The premise is simple but quite effective: five sketchy individuals are trapped in an elevator, unaware that one of them may be the devil. There is the sleazy salesman who has screwed his fair share of innocent people out of their savings; a posh, good-looking lady that's also an unapologetic gold-digger; an unassuming old woman who is also a compulsive pocket thief; a brawny looking fellow with a criminal past, and last of all; a suspiciously coy man who has witnessed excessive brutality during his days in the military.
From this classical horror setup, Devil manages to deliver some interesting twists; keeping the mystery alive and present for the film’s entire 80 minutes, which fly by fast. The elevator scenes depict the claustrophobia of the situation well through cleaver camera angles, never exhausting the location’s confined space. However, Devil is most ingenious in its use of darkness as a means of generating fear, projecting pivotal scenes in the viewers’ imagination in their entirety– harrowing and unnerving.
Getting trapped with the Prince of Darkness is a horrific prospect in itself, but director Dowdle gives it a moody spin with his insular and bleak cinematography. There is a sense of vacancy in Devil’s open landscape scenery that contrasts with the confined setting of the elevator. Devil’s cast of unfamiliar actors add to the film’s mystique while delivering competent performances that ground the film’s sense of foreboding and hopelessness.
Devil’s religious themes are heavy-handed and the film often hammers home its point too blatantly. However, it’s not uncharacteristic or out of place for a film that carries such a bold title.
Unlike other horror affairs that opt for gore and blood to turn your stomach, Devil never feels exploitive or nihilistically ambivalent; if anything, the film leaves you with a renewed sense of hope.
Following up on last year’s Oscar-win for the technically daring and wonderfully original, Birdman, writer-director Alejandro Gonzales Inarritu could well see more Oscar glory once more with his latest directorial marvel, The Revenant.
The story is set in the early 1820’s and it follows the fate of American frontiersman, Hugh Glass (DiCaprio), who is helping guide a team of fur trappers through the wilderness of the American West. Led by Andrew Henry (Gleeson), the unit, including John Fitzgerald (Hardy) and Jim Bridger (Poulter), soon comes under attack by a rioting Pawnee tribe, leaving them boat-less and with fewer men than they started with.
Making their way back to base through the unforgiving terrain on foot, the unit is once more faced with a challenge when Glass is attacked by a mother grizzly bear. Badly mutilated, yet somehow still alive, he is soon placed under Fitzgerald’s care, who, along with Bridger, has volunteered to stay behind until he dies so that they can give him a proper burial. After having grown tired of tending to his needs, Fitzgerald decides to leave him for dead; a move which only motivates Glass to fight through the pain and seek revenge on those who abandoned him.
Loosely based on Michael Punke’s novel titled, The Revenant: A Novel of Revenge, Inarritu’s canvas of choice here is a vast landscape of wild and seemingly unexplored beauty – a complete opposite to his entirely interior setting in Birdman - whose visuals are captivating and aptly intimidating. Bathed in natural light, the work of cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki is truly a force of its own as he goes on to capture the magnificence and the gritty brutality of the story with a great amount of realism and detail. Story-wise, the script – co-written by Inarritu and Mark Smith – is equally enthralling and the somewhat familiar subject of man vs. nature, thanks to Inarritu’s superbly feral and brutally primal approach to the topic, feels new and welcomingly different.
Watching the fiercely committed Leonardo DiCaprio embrace the physical and mental struggles of his character, elevates the already excellently executed film and the Oscar-buzz currently surrounding his performance is completely merited and well-deserved. But Leo isn’t the only player that deserves praise. Hardy is a force to be reckoned unto his own and is arguably as imposing as his co-star; he commands every scene masterfully, offering further proof of his immense capability as an actor.
Bloody, gritty and at times hard to watch, The Revenant is not an easy way to spend a hundred and fifty six minutes of your life, but what many have failed to talk about in light of the Di Caprio buzz, is that, as a whole, The Revenant is beautifully envisioned story of revenge which, thanks to wonderful cinematography and a couple of powerhouse performances, has resulted into one of the most captivating viewing experiences of the year.
Inspired by Casey Sherman and Michael J Tourgias’ 2009 non-fiction book, The Finest Hours: The True Story of the U.S Coast Guard’s Most Daring Sea Rescue, Craig Gillespie’s rescue-drama is an occasionally compelling film, but bearing in mind this is supposed to be the retelling of one of the greatest sea rescues in the history of sea rescues, the end-result is a little flatter and isn’t distinguished as one might expect.
Taking place on 1952, off the coast of Massachusetts, a raging storm has caused two oil tankers - the SS Fort Mercer and SS Pendleton – to split in half. While most of the rescue boats have been deployed to assist the Mercer, the crew on Pendleton - led by the first assistant engineer, Ray Sybert (Affleck) – weren’t able to send out a rescue signal and are now left at the mercy of the sea.
Meanwhile on land, docile-looking Coast Guard captain, Bernie (Pine) has been given instructions by his commanding officer, Daniel (Bana) to undertake the risky rescue-mission after the Pendleton’s location is discovered. Aware of the consequences, Bernie, along with a handful of men, heads out into the stormy night.
What keeps The Finest Hours afloat, so to speak, is the fact that it’s inspired by real-life events – this in itself gives the plot a sense of gravitas. If this was a fictional plot, however, it would have been thrown out long before it reached the big screen, despite, for the most part, telling its story in a relatively compelling and capable manner.
The problem is that it’s all a little run-of-the-mill. Giving the subjects of loyalty and bravery the classic, melodramatic Hollywood touch, the familiarity of the story is inviting, yes, but it’s also highly derivative and predictable. In addition, the nautical jargon used in the film is confusing and keeping up with the technicalities distracts from the human elements of the plot.
However, the film’s biggest setback comes with the decision to screen it in 3D, which is not only distracting, but also terribly disorienting; most of the film takes place at night, so trying to keep up with what’s going on is almost impossible.
The performances offered by what is a solid cast, meanwhile, are engaging enough to keep things balanced – Pine is surprisingly reserved but affective, while Affleck shines as the skilful engineer. Overall, though, it’s just not strong or heartfelt enough to keep its head above water (sorry, we can’t help it) and deliver a story which fitting of its real-life story.