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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.
Loosely based on Walter Isaacson’s 2011 biography of the same name – a book that was approved but never actually read by the man himself - the life and work of the late Steve Jobs is once again brought to life on the big screen, this time, in Aaron Sorkin and Danny Boyle’s engaging, but niche biopic, Steve Jobs.
The story begins with Steve Jobs (Fassbender) getting ready to launch and share the Macintosh home-computer with the world. As he awaits, rather impatiently, backstage for the auditorium to fill, marketing manager, Joanna Hoffman (Winslet sporting a sporadic and an uneven American-Polish accent) is working hard on containing the pandemonium involving a possible failure-to-launch scenario.
Jobs is soon approached and confronted by ex-lover, Chrisann Brennen (Waterston), and his five-year-old daughter, Lisa (Ross) – whom he refuses to accept as his own – who wants to discuss paternity issues, while Apple co-founder and old-time friend, Steve Wozniak (Rogen), is eager to argue the possibility of Steve actually sharing the credit for their success. Meanwhile, Apple CEO, John Sculley (Daniels) has his own bone to pick with Steve, who, by this point has demonstrated that his blinding ambition and drive to succeed will not be hindered by anyone.
Much like its titular character, Steve Jobs is not an easy film to love; those expecting a more straightforward approach to the story – and an in-depth account of the company’s history and a deeper insight into the man who brought it success - might well be disappointed with its minimal setup. However, those who find time to appreciate Danny Boyle’s unique storytelling, which covers three very distinct Apple product launches - debut of Macintosh, NEXT and the iMac which transpired in 1984, 1988 and 1998 respectively – will see that most of the movie’s strengths lie with its somewhat claustrophobic – albeit intimate – and theatrical setup. Padded with a few flashbacks, Steve Jobs is not interested in portraying the ‘early’ years; instead, it attempts to highlight Jobs’ personality and the interactions that occurred between him and his closest associates during a time which was deemed most critical for the company and, of course, for Jobs himself.
Capturing the often sociopathic and ruthless behavior when dealing with colleagues – friends and family not excluded - and his obsessive attention to detail, Fassbender offers a subtle but deeply-layered performance, completely devoid of any mimicry or impressionism. Meanwhile, Rogen manages to strip off his funnyman suit and deliver a poignant portrayal of the Apple I designer, while Winslet is surprisingly unnoticed as a loyal assistant.
It’s a decent biopic that offers a compelling glimpse inside the head of a man who is often referred to as a pioneer and a visionary of the digital age. The film doesn't exactly portray Jobs a nice man, that’s for sure, but stresses on his importance as one of the most famous figures of our time.
Steven Spielberg’s latest cinematic offering has ome in the form of a surprisingly tensionless and tame courtroom-drama- come-spy-thriller, Bridge of Spies. Written by newcomer Matt Charman and polished by the always-reliable Coen Brothers, the story, although still effective in terms of mood and acting, is not Spielberg’s best thanks to the lack of suspense and overall excitement.
Set in the late 1950s, Bridge of Spies takes place during the height of the Cold War and it begins telling its story with the arrest of a suspected Russian spy named, Rudolf Abel (Rylance) who is placed on public trial. In order to make sure that the US justice system appears to be fair, Abel is appointed defence in the form of a hand-picked insurance-lawyer, James Donovan (Hanks), who hasn’t quite got to grips with what he’s gotten himself into.
While it’s becoming very clear that everyone - including the judge himself - would like to see Abel hang for his crime, Donovan’s idealistic nature compels him to push even harder to ensure that his client receives fair treatment even if it means that his very own reputation as a lawyer could be placed at risk. After a lengthy battle, he manages to keep his client away from the death row, just in time when an U.S military pilot, Frances Gary Powers (Stowell) is shot down over the Russian territory in his U-2 spy plane and placed in Russian custody.
It’s hard not to get excited about a film project which finds one of the most respected and successful filmmakers in Hollywood, Mr. Steven Spielberg, rubbing shoulders with the likes of the Coen Brothers - see No Country for Old Men, Fargo. However, even though the film is still relatively engaging, there is very little meat on its narrow and bony structure to stand alongside either Spielberg’s or the Coens’ past cinematic triumphs.
Luckily, Tom Hanks is there to pick up the pieces and the Oscar-winning actor is once again as reliable as ever, while his Russian client, played by talented British stage actor, Mark Rylance, is quietly brilliant and perhaps one of the strongest aspects of the entire film.
In the end, the two filmic personalities seem to produce a clash of styles; the blend of Spielberg’s old school and grand approach to storytelling and the Coen Brothers’ downplayed quirkiness, results in a rather peculiar mix which doesn’t always sit right. In addition, the importance - and the horrors - sitting behind its Cold War backdrop is illustrated in a rather lazy and stage-like manner, contrasting Spielberg’s typically spot-on detail.