Monday, 28 April 2014

REVIEW - DEVIL'S KNOT (ATOM EGOYAN)


Sifted through with a curious commercialism that lies at odds with Atom Egoyan's idiosyncratic style of direction, Devil's Knot is the work of a director who's clearly in control, but equally clearly on shaky ground. What's unclear is what he imagined he might achieve in establishing such a pedestrian quality to a most sensational true story, one almost overripe with peerless potential for adaptation into narrative cinema. As written by two horror-movie scribes, Devil's Knot is hard on the ears, and the source of that unsettling sensation that arises from scene to scene? That's Egoyan at work, the stillness of his style, the camera lens peering so slowly across immaculately-constructed tableaux, the sinister glare of Paul Sarossy's cinematography. I hand it to Atom for overseeing a film of such artistry that he's seemingly unconcerned with showing off, but it's not going to win him any fans. And when one considers the monumental mess he very nearly makes with this sensitive subject in other regards, that's definitely not a career-minded decision he made. Middle-class ennui and studies of sexual perversions are his bag, and he's incapable of depicting this rural, working-class Arkansas neighbourhood with any degree of authenticity. And a shiny, starry cast only compounds the lack of verity in Egoyan's presentation, particularly when he succumbs to the hysteria in the script - a hysteria which he is, no doubt, proficient in handling, but which these overpaid 'performers' are by no means proficient in understanding. Mireille Enos is a standout, however, and it's easy to see why she has been cast in Egoyan's next film. As the film becomes a legal thriller, the filmmaking becomes lazy and didactic, and it loses focus - the outcome pretty much predetermined, energy is transferred over to provoking outrage, which might have had a better effect were the screenplay more dedicated to deploying verifiable fact (which is, in reality, in abundance). There remains a great deal of good in Egoyan's take on this well-told tale, but it competes for our attention with an equal deal of sheer dreck.