while i do love the gradual escalation of the stakes here, they were way too low at the outset, and that threw off the momentum for me. i'm supposed to believe a guy who's a little behind on child support would resort to robbing his parents' jewelry store? also, oh my god, did the women have nothing to do. ethan hawke and phil sey horfman did absolutely bring it though.
Style and structure scream 'American (white, male) auteur', but are used artfully, land well, aren't smug or trite. And, despite Marisa Tomei's character being among the flattest in screen history, and sometimes driven purely by the force that was PSH, the film becomes by the end a profoundly sensitive, deeply nuanced expression of (the?) human tragedy, on all its interacting and mostly unacknowledged levels.
I was uninvolved throughout this film except it was heartbreaking to see Hoffman take heroine and hazily admit that the parts of his life don’t sum up. Otherwise this is my first Lumet film and I didn’t see anything special. The structure and editing really stagnates the story.
Feels like Sidney Lumet gives his actors a lot of freedom, and he certainly hired some good ones for this. Bits of the story ping-pong off each other, out of sequence, as scenes dissolve with digital fast dolly zooms. All this adds nothing to a simple story of betrayal between family members that ends in a blood bath, but it is consistently engaging, and a great vehicle for the talents of Phillip Seymour Hoffman
The labyrinthic narration is as messy as the story itself. All in a good way. You really feel like an unpowered witness in the middle of all these complex characters, you can never identify yourselves to a protagonist because there's no leading character. All of this amplifies the tension all along in a genuine way. The numerous throwback can indeed be a little too repetitive and slow down the suspense.
Trilha sonora genial! Uma única música e é o suficiente para criar a atmosfera tensa ao longo da trama. Recurso fantástico e inovador: o efeito de transição de zoom com intercalação de frames para introduzir no tempo diegético presente memória das personagens. O filme também foge dos clichês, atrelando elementos de tragédia e comédia em uma sequência de catástrofes que assolam o seio daquela família.
My short list of Best Last Films of Great Directors probably gets to BEFORE THE DEVIL KNOWS YOU'RE DEAD very quickly, after we account for L'ARGENT, NO HOME MOVIE, and THE SACRIFICE. In this august company, Lumet's final film stands alone (and stands out) as an American film distributed quite widely. What's the film up to? Violence can be brutal, to be sure, but nothing is as brutal as the truth at its perfect worst.