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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.
Well-deserving of all the attention it’s been getting, James Marsh’s Theory of Everything – an emotional and a rousing look inside the life of one Professor Stephen W. Hawking and his loving but, turbulent thirty-year long marriage to Jane Hawking – is nothing short of wonderful.
Sourced from Jane’s 2008 memoir, Travelling to Infinity: My Life with Stephen, the story begins in 1963, with an exceptionally charming twenty-one physicist, Stephen Hawking (Redmayne), on his way of pursuing his doctorate from the University of Cambridge.
It is there that he first meets the beautiful literature-major student, Jane Wilde (Jones); a devout Christian whose outlook on life – and science in particular – doesn’t necessarily fall in line with his more agnostic and mathematical assessments of human existence.
Just as the love between the two begins to blossom and Stephen begins preparing for his final thesis, he discovers that he is suffering from motor neuron disease; an illness that will soon begin to take away his ability to walk and talk, amongst other things. Having been given only two years to live, the young and the highly-intelligent physicist – whose thirst for knowledge and passion for life refuses to surrender – slowly begins to challenge his weaknesses. However, as he continues to grow professionally, his life at home with Jane – who is single-handedly carrying his physical limitations on her frail shoulders – begins to show signs of despair.
While this is in fact a biopic – a simple and a straightforward one at that – which celebrates the life and work of Hawking, it is also very important to note that this is not a story that goes deep into his rise to fame as the renowned physicist we know today. It’s a much smaller scale story of love and compassion and a one focuses on human endurance, courage and, most of all, hope.
The Theory of Everything is shot beautifully and a real sense of romanticism and nostalgia – driven by a sensual and a tear-jerking classical score – can be felt throughout. It’s an emotionally-rich drama that, although sometimes can feel a little too sugary, manages to stay grounded. It is, to a large degree, thanks to Redmayne’s extraordinary performance audiences will be able to appreciate what is an insightful and meaningful peak inside the private life of one of the most respected and remarkable minds living today.
There’s quirky and then there is the outright ridiculous. Unfortunately, it’s the latter that best fits Johnny Depp’s Mortdecai performance.
Based on Kyril Bonfiglioli's 1973 book anthology, Don’t Point that Finger at Me, the film follows the eccentric and the unconventional life of swindling British art dealer, Lord Charlie Mortdecai (Depp), who seems to have fallen into a financial rut. His lavish family estate – which he shares with his wife, Joanna (Paltrow) – is now in danger of being taken away from him and his long list of clients have caught onto his deceitful ways.
To make things even worse, Charlie soon finds himself at odds with Joanna, who is refusing to speak to him until he gets rid of the ridiculous handlebar moustache.
It’s not until Inspector Martland (McGregor) – Charlie’s old college roommate – shows up asking for help with a murder case that’s linked to the theft of a lost Goya painting that things begin to look up. Hoping that the finder’s fee will help him, Charlie – with the assistance of his loyal manservant, Jock Strapp (Bettany) – soon finds himself trotting around the globe looking for a painting that is not only valuable, but one that may lead them to a hidden treasure of gold.
Adapted to the screen by Eric Aronson, Mortdecai’s story is overly complex and disjointed to the point of complete and utter breakdown. The pace is relatively brisk and the gags – mainly involving Charlie’s moustache – are aplenty; however, the jokes are forced and never really hit their mark, leaving the whole development of the plot a little exhausting.
Depp – someone who has grown accustomed to odd-ball roles such as this – seems to be happy to step into the part of the eccentric British aristocrat, however, his usual charm and irresistible unconventionality seem to be a little on the off-side. Lacking originality and character, Depp is a babbling mess while Paltrow, McGregor and Bettany, were all a little lost in their respective roles.
Succumbing to a series of cheap gags and an ongoing barrage of humourless quips, Mortdecai – probably best described as Austin Powers meets James Bond – feels like a missed opportunity considering its accomplished and talented cast.