Plot: What’s it about?
Andy Hanson (Philip Seymour Hoffman) and his brother Hank (Ethan Hawke) both find themselves in dire need of a financial boost. Andy is drowning in debt from a lavish lifestyle designed to please his wife, while Hank struggles to provide for his daughter, who lives with his ex-wife. Andy believes he has a solution, a low risk crime that will provide them the much needed cash without any real consequences. Hank is to rob a small time jewelry store that the brothers know inside and out, knowledge that exists because their parents own the store. The plan should be foolproof, as their parents are covered by insurance, which means no one gets hurt and the financial issues are resolved. But is the plan as slick as the brothers believe and if not, how will the events impact their lives and the lives of the others involved?
This is one of those movies you think about long after the credits have rolled. Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead is so rich and layered, you almost want to watch it again, as soon as it concludes. The tension is massive and grows at a rapid pace, so that as the finale approaches, you’re not sure how much more you can handle. Sidney Lumet’s direction here is flawless, able to maintain an intense atmosphere for the duration, develop characters that are believable, and deliver an experience that shakes the audience and refuses to be put out of mind. This is just that good of a movie, simply masterful. The performances are excellent across the board, with Ethan Hawke, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Albert Finney, and Marisa Tomei as standouts. In truth, I couldn’t find much to complain about here, I was drawn in from the start and never diverted my attention, even for a second, until the credits finished. This is a movie you simply cannot miss, as Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead is one of 2007’s best pictures.
Video: How does it look?
Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead is presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. This is an excellent transfer. I wasn’t blown away by the visuals at first, but the consistent clarity and depth is undeniable. The film skews colors and contrast to an extent, so the visuals have a stylized presence that works well. That visual design is upheld here, with natural colors and stark contrast, all of which look spot on. The image is pristine in terms of debris or unwanted grain, so softness is never a concern. In short, this isn’t the kind of transfer that jumps out at you, but it still looks quite incredible.
Audio: How does it sound?
This DTS HD 5.1 master audio soundtrack might not be explosive throughout, but it is an effective presentation. For the most part, the audio is rather reserved, but the track still provides an immersive atmosphere. So even in scenes dominated by dialogue, subtle elements add presence and make for a more natural experience. In the scenes where the audio needs some thunder, the track delivers and then some. The power cracks when gunfire is present, shattering the otherwise reserved audio field, making sure we remember those moments. This disc also includes a Dolby Digital 5.1 option, as well as subtitles in English and Spanish.
Supplements: What are the extras?
An audio commentary is up first, as director Sidney Lumet is joined by stars Ethan Hawke and Philip Seymour Hoffman. The trio take an in depth look at the movie from the inside out, from the performances to the story to the filmmaking process. A candid and engaging session, this one shouldn’t be missed. This disc also includes an informative, twenty-five minute look behind the scenes, as well as the film’s theatrical trailer.