From the mind of M. Night Shymalan doesn't mean much nowadays. These are sad but true words coming from a big Shymalan supporter, which I am. His track record started off strong with three consecutive hits with "The Sixth Sense," "Unbreakable," and "Signs." His first misstep, in many people's opinions, was "The Village," an opinion I do not share. After that came "Lady in the Water," "The Happening," and "The Last Airbender." It's clear that a change was in order for Mr. Shymalan and with "Devil," that change is here.
"Devil" is the first entry in a series in which Shymalan has dubbed, "The Night Chronicles." The film was originally going to be called "The Night Chronicles: Devil." But seeing as Shymalan's name isn't as credible as it once used to be, you can see why they opted for the retitling. The film plays like a whodunit. It's about a group of 5 strangers who are stuck on a elevator and one of them is Satan, himself. Out of the five strangers, I found three of them pretty grating as characters. Aside from the people on the elevator, we have the various building personnel who are trying to get these people off the elevator. One of the security guards played by Jacob Vargas, narrates the film and is the only character who suspects what's really going on and relates to it, since he can recall his Mother telling him a similar story as a kid. I completely understood the necessity for his character but I found him comical and stereotypical, at the same time.
The backbone and arch of the story centers around one of the detectives in the film. He's a broken man who lost his family and is battling with those demons and it's no coincidence that he's apart of what's happening to these people on the elevator. That's one of the things I really liked about the film. It didn't only focus on the people who were trapped, it also cut and intertwined a handful of people and did it in a very smart and suspenseful way. Tak Fujimoto's cinematography compliments the film very nicely, as well. As does Fernando Velazquez's score.
Like most of Shymalan's films it keeps you guessing until the end. And that's what cemented it for me, the ending. I won't spoil anything but it's handled in such a clever and meaningful way, all the while your on the edge of your seat wondering how it's all going to play out. I'm glad to see Shymalan taking a different approach. His writing is simple but meaningful and it seems, for now anyway, that he has lost his touch when it comes to directing a decent film. For him to allow someone else to direct and put their own spin on his own ideas, shows that he has matured in a sense. And it's a great approach, to give someone else the opportunity to inject some energy into an idea that clearly needed it. Devil, is a success, because it knows what story it's trying to tell and the pieces that are used to tell that story are effective ones.