This is how a thriller should be! Devil is one of those rare movies that stays well within itself to create a terrifying paranormal mystery that, for once, does not insult the audience's intelligence.
The movie has an underlying theological vein running through the story. There is the archetypal story of good against evil, with the devil representing all that is wrong with the world. And then there is the idea of forgiveness, and closure. Beyond these core ideas, however, the movie stays clear of all forms of preaching and instead plants itself firmly in the human realm of fear, suspicion, hatred, and the paranormal.
The story starts off Detective Bowden (Chris Messina) investigating a suspicious suicide, by a tall skyscraper, which quickly turns into a rescue of five strangers stuck in an elevator - an light-fingered old woman (Jenny O'Hara), an Afghan war veteran with a big secret (Logan Marshall-Green), a gold-digger looking to cash out (Bojana Novakovic), a security guard with a violent record (Bokeem Woodbine) and a creepy mattress salesman (Geoffrey Arend). As fire fighters begin the rescue effort, strange activities begin taking place inside the elevator car - lights begin to flicker, and temporarily go out. With every blackout something strange begins happening, first there are unexplained flesh bites and then people begin to die. While suspicion and fear grows in the car, detective Bowden outside begins to unravel the sordid histories of the occupants of the car. As reason and faith come to a head, the prognosis for the occupants of the elevator car does not look good.
It is hard to imagine that in the same year M. Night Shyamalan was involved in the making of this movie, while being associated with something as pathetic as The Last Airbender. Yet, something in this movie worked. The story was spot on. There is a dark, brooding tone to the movie, brought on by an abundance of deep wind instruments in the soundtrack and visuals featuring a darker, desaturated look. Camera work is top notch too, successfully toeing the line of the narrative. The acting is a bit in the light side, and that is probably for the better.
The movie is a success in moderation. There is a bit of everything, scary faces, blood, darkness and scenes that make you jump. But at no point is it overwhelming. The uncomplicated ending, reinforces the theme of brevity - no hanging threads for a sequel. If you like watching scary movies that are, dare I say, intellectual - then this is the movie for you. If you are turned off by paranormal thrillers that struggle to get the balance between scary and story right - pick up this movie and listen to Ramirez tell the story about how the Devil roams the Earth.