The Devil's Advocate - Rated - SIMMERING

I went to see The Devil's Advocate on the day Alien Resurrection opened. We couldn't get in to Alien resurrection, so we went to see The Devil's Advocate on spec - I'd heard nothing at all about it. I was very pleasantly surprised.

This is a big, almost operatic film. It reminds me of what Brian de Palma tried to do in The Bonfire of the Vanities. He missed, but Taylor Hackford (An Officer and a Gentleman, Against All Odds, Dolores Claiborne) pretty nearly brings it off in The Devil's Advocate.

The film starts off fairly ordinarily, but you twig pretty quickly to just who John Milton is. The next thing I noticed was the production design and art direction, which is absolutely stunning and just gets more and more interesting. The film shifts gear about half-way through as we get into a more surreal scenario. And we end in a real apocalypse, with a stunning oration by Al Pacino to boot. This is stirring stuff. Even Keanu Reeves, who seems to be on automatic pilot in most of his movies, rises to the occasion. We know he can act - we've seen My Own Private Idaho - and he gives it a go here. Maybe Pacino inspired him.

The screenplay is clever, and it deals with some issue which interest me: for example the morality of lawyers. The film explores this issue, not just the hackneyed old problem of lawyers defending people they know are guilty, but also the question of lawyers defending people they can't stand. It looks at some of the other ways the law and business challenges our ethics. And it canvasses issues of morality, and goodness, in life generally. It looks at the compromises we make - how little ones can become big ones through habituation. Then it goes quite mad.

Hackford gave Pacino a lot of rope... and while he didn't quite hang himself, there was a slight whiff of rope-burn in the air. But considering the character he's playing, I think he hits just the right note.

I loved the final minutes of the film. It really kept me thinking and guessing and I left feeling mentally refreshed, visually satisfied and having had quite a good moral workout. And all the better for not having known what to expect.