Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead: Sidney Lumet (2007)



Sidney Lumet is living proof that age is never a deterrent. The 83 year old master auteur has crafted what I can safely say is one of the finest films in the last few years; painfully intense, deeply disturbing and layered with nuances that no other film maker his age is capable of depicting.

Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead is not an ordinary botched heist story; it ends up being something much more-a poem about men thrust into circumstances that drag them into an abyss of moral ambiguities, ethical dilemmas and disturbing questions about the nature of loyalty, love and family. Hank (Ethan Hawke) and Andy (Philip Seymour Hoffman) are brothers who resort to desperate measures in desperate times. The older Andy, mired in drugs and debt proposes a victim less crime and convinces the younger Hank to rob a jewelery store that is insured; the only catch being that the store is owned by their parents.

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The job goes wrong and the mother ends up being fatally shot. What follows is a complex analysis of seemingly simple people, people who could very well be us, people who for the life of them cannot come to terms with their actions. Andy is an egomaniac (stressed by an opening scene where he stares at himself in the mirror whilst making love to his trophy wife), Hank is the over parented younger son who can never seem to get by on his own and Charles is the father who is in a constant state of denial.

Lumet employs an overlapping time sequence and retells the story from the points of view of the various characters. I cannot seem to get over the fact that Lumet shows the vitality and sharpness of a film maker half his age. If you’ve seen his earlier films (Network, Dog Day Afternoon), you’ll know that the director has perfected the art of cinematic voyeurism, he gives you front row seats to the mayhem in the lives of ordinary individuals.

I stress ordinary because everything about every frame is ordinary, in an extraordinary way. You can hear the ambient sounds of clocks, copiers, telephones, cars and what not…all intended to give the viewer a feel of the dingy dark recesses of the human mind in spite of the seeming normalcy that surrounds the protagonists. He has taken this a step further by using high definition digital video which only accentuates the grittiness.

Before the devil Knows You’re Dead is a wonderfully restrained drama that proves without the shadow of a doubt the genius that is Sidney Lumet.



5 Responses to “Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead: Sidney Lumet (2007)”

  1. 1 Swen

    Looks like this is a must watch. I had seen the trailer earlier – had me interested.

  2. Ethan Hawke! ’nuff said. And Phillip Seymor Hoffman! Neat review bro. Now you got me all excited, and I will be seeing this next.

  3. Another film that never made it to Austria… at least not yet. It sucks living in a small country… internet is the only salvation…

  4. 10/10?! Wow…need to add this movie to my Netflix queue then.

  5. @all : Now I feel guilty for giving the film 10. A let down is inevitable isn’t it? But then again, the film *is that* good!

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