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Before the Devil Knows You're Dead
Genre Crime
Year: 2007

Before The Devil Knows You’re Dead is a powerful crime thriller that brings “the family” closer to home as two brothers plan a heist on their parent’s jewellery store, which goes horribly wrong. Instead of the mob, it’s the immediate family that does the job. Sidney Lumet directs a film that loosely mimics Kubrick’s The Killing in terms of narrative and plot. Philip Seymour Hoffman delivers a sterling performance, which was bundled together with The Savages to earn him an Oscar nomination. He’s a talented actor, and suits Andy in the dark, chaotic world of Before The Devil Knows You’re Dead.

This drug-infused fiasco is a heist movie that starts off like child’s play and keeps upping the stakes until everything falls apart. Hoffman is supported by Ethan Hawke as Hank, the cowardly down-on-his-luck brother. Albert Finney caps the ensemble off as Charles Hanson, and embodies a full-range character, who is pushed to the darkest reaches of his heart. This family is ripped apart at the seams in a domino-effect that makes each family member get more and more desperate as their lives begin a downward spiral.

The performances are the main reason to see Before The Devil Knows You’re Dead. Hoffman, Hawke and Finney are actors that invest in their characters, and put performance before public persona. Each actor demonstrates a marked transition from a lull of darkness in their hearts until they turn pitch black. Before The Devil Knows You’re Dead is primarily character-driven and each role demands further study.

The narrative style is interesting and unravels pieces of information in a non-chronological fashion. Each person’s perspective filters through to change the audience’s understanding of the character’s motives. This evolving style adds to the tension as each scene collides into the next. Lumet’s direction is hard-edged and the weight of the performances, editing and script all pull together for one dark, dramatic crime thriller.

The bottom line: Dark.

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