Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead. 2007. USA. Directed by Sidney Lumet. Screenplay by Kelly Masterson. With Ethan Hawke, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Marisa Tomei. 35mm. 117 min.
One of the great final films in movie history, Sidney Lumet’s Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead is a family tragedy involving a botched jewelry heist that assumes the moral dimensions of an Arthur Miller play. Ellen Lewis assembled a brilliantly intense cast—Philip Seymour Hoffman, Ethan Hawke, Albert Finney, and Marisa Tomei—who in Lumet’s inveterate hands seem to have outdone themselves. (The critic David Sterritt writes, “When actors of this magnitude reach beyond even their already impressive range—and a director who seems to have done it all taps into entirely fresh viewpoints—it marks a moment of celebration.”) Lumet had always excelled at gripping stories of blindly flawed people in desperate straits, ever since the days of Studio One and 12 Angry Men, and here he is able to mine a rich vein of petty jealousy and venality in the American Dream through Kelly Masterson’s script, which delays the inevitable titanic clash of sons and father through flashbacks and fractured scenes.