Before the Devil Knows You're Dead

Before the Devil Knows You're Dead ★★★★★

Even though I saw this years ago, I was still completely surprised by everything that happened during this recent re-watch. All I remember from the last time I saw it was that I liked it. This time, I fell head over heels in love. Before the Devil Knows You're Dead is essentially a family drama masquerading as a crime drama. Andy and Hank are brothers in very different stages in their lives. When Andy asks Hank to rob a jewelry store, everything goes wrong and the rest of the film is concerned with how their lives fall apart and how fucked up their family is.

This is definitely Phillip Seymour Hoffman's best performance, and that's a big deal. He always gives a great performance, but this one is transcendent. His character is tremendously layered, with years of pent up anger and resentment spilling out in the most bizarre and unexpected ways. The scene of him trashing his apartment is startling in its quiet desperation and rhythm. I felt like I was watching something he was choreographing in his head as he went along. There are many other examples of scenes like this that marry powerful acting with masterful direction and mise-en-scène.

Everyone did an amazing job in their roles, even if they were just small parts. That's attributable to Sidney Lumet's direction. The standout for me was Marissa Tomei as the unhappy wife. She doesn't get a ton of lines, but she shines whenever she does get to talk. Ethan Hawke also gave an extremely memorable performance. Whenever I thought he was going to go over the top, he reeled it in and saved it. He was really impressive.

There are other elements besides the flawless acting that I will give brief mention to. I really loved the score. It was epic and full of dread. The camerawork was amazing. I loved the transitions between distinct parts of the storyline…. It's kind of hard to describe if you haven't seen it. I'm sure some find it annoying, but for me, it was a great way to signal that I was about to jump forward or backward in the narrative. I thoroughly enjoyed the non-linear story-line, and how that presents twists and turns throughout without having to sacrifice logic. The quick pace makes the 2 hour runtime fly by, and when it's over, you're left breathless and wanting more.

Seriously, one of the best films I've ever seen. Now I really want to do a Sidney Lumet marathon.

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