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Before the Devil Knows You're Dead(2007)
When two brothers organize the robbery of their parents' jewelry store the job goes horribly wrong, triggering a series of events that they both could not have foreseen.
For more about Before the Devil Knows You're Dead and the Before the Devil Knows You're Dead Blu-ray release, see Before the Devil Knows You're Dead Blu-ray Review published by Ben Williams on February 11, 2009 where this Blu-ray release scored 5.0 out of 5.
Director: Sidney Lumet
Writer: Kelly Masterson
Starring: Philip Seymour Hoffman, Ethan Hawke, Marisa Tomei, Albert Finney, Rosemary Harris, Michael Shannon
» See full cast & crew
Before the Devil Knows You're Dead Blu-ray Review
"May you have food and raiment, a soft pillow for your head; may you be 40 years in heaven, before the devil knows you're dead."
Reviewed by Ben Williams, February 11, 2009
Sidney Lumet was 84 years old when he directed Before the Devil Knows You're Dead. I wanted to put that out there; right up front, easy to see, for all of the readers who might not be familiar with this remarkable man's work. Not only that, it's at this grand age, when most people are experiencing trouble walking, much less directing a motion picture, that Mr. Lumet decided to shoot his first feature with high definition cameras. It's safe to say that he got the hang of it; so much so, that he made the following statement at a press event during the movie's release:
"Anything you can do with film, I can do with HD."
Touche, sir! Mr. Lumet has proven, time and again, that he's one of the most talented forces to ever direct a film. His directorial credits read like a laundry-list of masterworks and reach back to 1948. I guess it should come as no surprise then, that this immensely gifted man has delivered yet another stunning motion picture in 2007's Before the Devil Knows You're Dead. The film is a stark, violent and disturbing look into the workings of a troubled family, and how a series of lapses in judgment will tear that family to pieces.
Andy Harrison (Philip Seymour Hoffman) and his wife Gina (Marisa Tomei) long for better days; when their hopes and dreams pointed to a more casual life together. While their marriage crisis dominates Gina's thoughts, Andy has more pressing concerns. Deeply in debt, embezzling from his employer, addicted to drugs and looking for a quick solution to his impending financial and criminal crisis, Andy turns to the only person he knows in straits as dire as his own, his brother Hank (Ethan Hawke). As a recent divorcee, Hank's child support payments, alimony and sketchy employment prospects threaten to impede his child visitation rights. Andy convinces Hank that the only solution to their problems is to rob their parent's jewelry store. Their Father, Charles (Albert Finney), and Mother, Nanette (Rosemary Harris), have plenty of insurance, Andy argues; no one will get hurt and everyone wins. It seems like the perfect plan. Until, of course, this supposedly perfect plan goes horribly wrong and their Mother is accidentally shot during the robbery. How may lies can the two brothers tell before their intricate deception finally catches up to them?
Viewing Before the Devil Knows You're Dead was a profoundly, albeit entertainingly disturbing experience. Philip Seymour Hoffman's Andy is a stunningly deplorable character; lying by habit, fueled by rage and jealousy and lacking in even the most basic moral compass, he exists to bring pain and sadness to all who know him. Hank isn't much better; his own habitual deceptions are shrouded in his cowardly nature, while he still possesses the greed and desperation to excuse Andy's actions. Both actors deliver nuanced and complex performances; they simply are these people, and it's that realism that makes their actions even more vile. Before the Devil Knows You're Dead is a film inhabited by liars and cheats. Even the movie's more sympathetic characters carry big secrets; playing their own part in the atmosphere of deception that the film explores. Much like real-life, the picture's guilty parties don't always find justice; perhaps that's the film's most disturbing truism.
Shamefully, there are far too many movies released these days that are oblivious to the importance of pacing. Clearly, Mr. Lumet understands this difficult concept and Before the Devil Knows You're Dead is infinitely more effective because of it. As the story leaps from each character's perspective to the next, it becomes apparent that the seemingly random nature of these narrative leaps are carefully coordinated to add to the film's abundance of tension. Mr. Lumet's skilled hand guides the proceedings with a calm and purposeful precision; never over the top and never rushed. It's perfect.
Even though the film won countless awards, was highly praised by critics and featured acting talent worthy of attention from large audiences, Before the Devil Knows You're Dead found little success theatrically. Audiences now have a second chance to experience a genuinely great film. Blu-ray gives you that second chance without any compromise. Before the Devil Knows You're Dead is a must see film and one of the best movies in recent memory.
Before the Devil Knows You're Dead Blu-ray, Video Quality
Before the Devil Knows You're Dead is a bizarre visual experience. Much has been made of Mr. Lumet's decision to shoot the movie with Panavision Genesis high definition cameras as well as the resulting look the movie achieves. It's a varied presentation that sways between scenes drained of color and contrast to those that are rich and lush. Much of the indoor photography falls into the latter category; Andy's drug dealer's apartment being a particularly fine example of a more brilliantly saturated location.
Admirably, this direct-to-digital 1080p transfer, utilizing AVC Mpeg-4 while maintaining the original theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1, does a completely faithful job of dealing with the film's extremes while maintaining an extraordinary level of fine detail. Contrast is intentionally inconsistent; some scenes maintain solid black levels while others are crushed. There's a stylized look to the entire production that, while difficult to pin down, gives the film a singular visual tone. Those on the hunt for edge enhancement, artifacts and other anomalies will, thankfully, find none. Before the Devil Knows You're Dead is a challenging film, both in story and appearance. Image Entertainment has reached the highest level of perfection with this Blu-ray release and I am thrilled to give the film's video my highest recommendation.
Before the Devil Knows You're Dead Blu-ray, Audio Quality
On the audio front, Before the Devil Knows You're Dead manages a delicate balancing act by creating an impressive ambiance rooted in the sounds of every day life, while rendering the picture's many dialogue-driven scenes with aplomb. Image has wisely chosen 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio as their audio format for this release and I can't imagine Before the Devil Knows You're Dead sounding any better.
The movie, itself, is one of extremes; shifting back and forth between relative calm and sudden and shocking violence. This outstanding surround track responds to each and every situation by calmly rendering the quieter moments and leaping to attention with furious intensity during the film's brutal depictions of unexpected violence. Before the Devil Knows You're Dead features a strangely menacing score, provided by Carter Burwell, that haunts each scene and punctuates every moment of violence. It's chillingly reproduced here; perfectly placed within the mix. Dialogue is rooted in the center channel throughout the feature and a light, effective atmosphere convincingly fills the rear channels. Before the Devil Knows You're Dead is subtle and creative in its use of surround sound. It's a track that sneaks up on the viewer and makes its presence known with brute force, powerful LFE and reference-grade fidelity. Highly recommended.
Before the Devil Knows You're Dead Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Here's what's included:
- Audio Commentary with Director Sidney Lumet and actors Philip Seymour Hoffman and Ethan Hawke
- "How the Devil Was Made"
- Theatrical Trailer
Before the Devil Knows You're Dead includes a handful of special features that are fairly limited in number while remaining superbly in-depth. First up, is the tremendous audio commentary track with Director Sidney Lumet, Ethan Hawke and Philip Seymour Hoffman. It's a wonderfully enriching, entertaining and informative experience that takes the viewer inside the minds of all three participants. Fascinating aspects of the production process are disclosed; the track represents a unique opportunity to witness a number of in-depth discussions that highlight the master director's unique take on the material and how the lead actors interpreted his direction. Next, "How the Devil Was Made," is an involved behind-the-scenes documentary that focuses on the High Definition cameras used for the movie as well as intimate interviews with the cast and crew. It's a short featurette, but never fails to be interesting and completely involving. Finally, the feature's theatrical trailer has been included; unfortunately, only in standard definition.
Before the Devil Knows You're Dead Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
It never ceases to amaze me that Before the Devil Knows You're Dead didn't achieve more success in theaters. It is a hauntingly eye-opening film about greed, addiction and envy that culminates into one of the most harrowing portraits of broken family bonds that I've ever witnessed. Fueled by a magnificent script that abandons the traditional linear timeline of most films, in favor of one that freely revisits scenes from varying perspectives, Before the Devil Knows You're Dead is a one stop master-class in well honed technique. Director Sidney Lumet disproves the old adage that one "can't teach an old dog new tricks" by shooting the picture in a guerilla style, using high definition cameras. It's his years of filmmaking expertise with both the technical side of filmmaking as well as extracting the finest performances from his actors that shines though in every frame of this magnificent film. Image Entertainment has given Before the Devil Knows You're Dead a perfect video transfer that is consistent with the feature's digital source. Audio is also dynamic, powerful and, when necessary, restrained. The set's supplements are a little on the light side, though what is included maintains exceptional quality. I can't recommend Before the Devil Knows You're Dead highly enough. It is the overlooked gem of 2007 and is a film that demands to be seen.
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Before the Devil Knows You're Dead Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Image Entertainment Announces Blu-ray Plans - March 17, 2008
Image Entertainment has announced their upcoming slate of films to be released on the Blu-ray format. As previously reported, April 15th will see the release of 'Before the Devil Knows You're Dead' followed by the May 6th release of 'The Air I Breathe'. On May ...
• Before the Devil Knows You're Dead Announced - December 14, 2007
Image Entertainment has announced that they will bring the Ethan Hawk and Philip Seymour Hoffman film 'Before the Devil Knows You're Dead' to Blu-ray on April 15th, day-and-date with the DVD release. No technical specs have been announced at this time, nor supplemental ...
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