God is in the Details
Not surprisingly, Shyamalan’s compulsion to preach was a major downer in what is otherwise a moderately entertaining movie.
Even though Shyamalan neither directed nor wrote the screenplay (he just came up with the story), his touch on Devil is obvious. Detective Bowden (Chris Messina) is the requisite tough guy, a spiritually troubled cop doing his best to get his life back on track. He is called to investigate a suicide from an upper storey of an office building; while he’s there, five people get stuck in an elevator. One of those people is actually Satan, who was able to enter the building on the back of the terrible sin of suicide.
The devil has come in order to torture and kill his damned elevator mates. And these are really bad people: They have stolen; they have gotten into fights. Some of them have even lied. They are so far beyond redemption in fact, that when a Catholic security guard begins to pray over the intercom, they don’t even realize it’s a prayer. So they obviously deserve everything they get.
Fortunately, the acting is good, especially the interplay between Detective Bowden and the two security guards (Jacob Vargas and Matt Craven). Using a stuck elevator as a torture device was especially apt, since this devil’s brand of torture is primarily psychological — just like being trapped in an elevator. Tak Fujimoto’s cinematography of the bowels of a Philadelphia skyscraper is as beautiful as it is claustrophobic.
Devil, as with every Shyamalan movie, has its cringe-worthy moments. The only guy who knows that it’s Satan wreaking havoc in the elevator is the Latino security guard, a superstitious Catholic who breaks into Spanish when he’s frightened. Really? It’s so cartoonish that it’s embarrassing.
The worst part of Devil is that it seems like Shyamalan really thinks he’s got it all figured out — the nature of God, who deserves to be punished and how we go about achieving redemption. Nobody likes a know-it-all.