Although still a young filmmaker, M. Night Shyamalan has already received both widespread praise and derision for his work. After receiving praise early on for writing and directing movies like “The Sixth Sense” and “Signs,” Shyamalan’s faced a critical backlash over some of his most recent pictures, including “The Happening” and this year’s “The Last Airbender.” His latest movie is the thriller “Devil,” which he produced and wrote the story for. Although it doesn’t recapture the greatness of some of his earlier films, “Devil” is still worth seeing.
The story opens with a man committing suicide by jumping out of an office building. A pair of detectives arrive to investigate the scene. However, it is not the man who went “down” who merits an investigation. It is the five people who are going up — on an elevator, that is.
Shortly after the suicide, five strangers enter an elevator in a nearby building, when it suddenly breaks down. The three men and two women are now stuck and immediately dislike each other and begin arguing. One awkwardly sings a tune to liven up the mood which only annoys the other four.
Unfortunately, the elevator passengers aren’t just annoying to one another. These mean and unlikable five are also annoying to the viewer stuck watching them. Thankfully, after these lame characters are introduced, momentum is quickly regained.
Two security guards begin to investigate the stuck elevator and ask the building’s maintenance man to help out. But the maintenance man faces difficulty fixing the elevator because a mysterious force is working to keep the doors closed. As one of the security guards watches a video feed, an evil face suddenly appears onscreen. Being a religious man, the guard soon suspects that the Devil himself is responsible for the events of that day, including the suicide.
As the story rolls on, the five face an unknown enemy among them. The lights go out, someone’s scratched and soon other mysterious attacks occur in this small, stifling space. As one of the film’s trailers points out, one of these five isn’t who they pretend to be.
As the characters question each other’s motives, the movie builds up some real suspense. From the face of the devil appearing to the elevator lights turning on and off, events create increased tension as the stakes are raised and people start dying. Like Agatha Christie’s novel “And Then There Were None,” the story eliminates suspects until the end when the mystery is solved as to who or what is on the attack.
Unfortunately, things end on a weak note, a real letdown for anyone hoping for an ending that was on par with what came before. However, the movie’s strengths are enough to recommend it.