Editor’s Notice: This piece was written throughout the 2023 WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes. With out the labor of the writers and actors at present on strike, the film being coated right here would not exist.
Sympathy for the Satan is a basically flawed movie; holding our consideration is the naked minimal for a thriller, and it manages that solely sporadically. It does, nonetheless, make for an attention-grabbing evaluation topic. Whereas watching it, I discovered myself acutely aware of its machinations, spending the time I used to be imagined to be invested within the story pondering by means of why it wasn’t drawing me in. The fitting items are there, for probably the most half, and although they can’t appear to kind a cohesive complete lengthy sufficient to maintain rigidity, the the reason why it builds or dissipates are at all times fairly clear. Those that take pleasure in turning motion pictures into mental workout routines, as I’m about to do, would possibly wring a bit extra leisure from Sympathy for the Satan than most. However even then, for anybody with 90 minutes to spend and a sea of choices, its worth is proscribed.
The premise of this film, which is directed by Yuval Adler and written by Luke Paradise, is enticingly easy. A person, formally credited as The Driver (Joel Kinnaman), drops off his son and heads to the hospital the place his spouse has gone into labor. After he pulls into the car parking zone, The Passenger (Nicolas Cage) will get into his backseat. The Driver, at gunpoint, with no data of the place they are going or why he is being focused, is instructed to drive out of town. It is a robust setup for a gripping narrative, based on just a few key questions: Has Cage’s character taken a hostage at random, or was Kinnaman’s household man chosen for a purpose? If it was intentional, does he have the precise man? How will the delivery determine into this – does it present urgency to flee and make it again in time, or are The Driver’s spouse, son, and unborn youngster in peril, too?
These questions are Sympathy for the Satan‘s sources of dramatic curiosity, however the movie mishandles them, the ultimate ones particularly. Thrillers profit from a ticking clock, and it needs to be a significant asset that the circumstances of this hostage scenario are as attention-grabbing as the truth that it occurred. However, exterior just a few telephone calls to remind us what is going on on off-screen, this a part of the state of affairs doesn’t show integral to the plot past thematic coincidence. Enjoying thoughts video games along with his captive, Cage’s character is an intentional power of delay, performing like that is little greater than an informal interplay. His affect should not win out over the movie itself, however because the delivery fades into the background, the pacing of scenes grows languid.
As for The Passenger’s motive and The Driver’s identification, the film ideas its hand a lot too early. Cage’s efficiency is erratic, sprinkled with the occasional outburst that has grow to be related along with his display screen persona, and that is supposed to maintain us guessing whether or not his actions are calculated or simply impulse. However he additionally speaks to his captive as if he is aware of him and asks the occasional pointed query, basically giving the sport away. Kinnaman, in the meantime, is miscast. He offers an excellent efficiency, however very similar to Stephen King’s criticism about Jack Nicholson’s casting in The Shining, he simply would not learn as a “regular” man. It feels inevitable that The Driver will develop into any person who can deal with himself higher than he lets on, whether or not that is who The Passenger is on the lookout for or not.
Sympathy for the Satan might have used this to its benefit by laying its playing cards out on the desk, however it tries for a lot too lengthy to carry onto the thriller of its characters’ backstories. That is maybe the film’s most crucial miscalculation. As soon as we perceive that The Passenger selected his sufferer for a purpose and that The Driver will show greater than he claims, there isn’t any rigidity in withholding what precisely transpired to convey them to this second. The small print would solely serve to disclose character, in order that the viewers can see the true nature of the dynamic between them. The story might progress to a brand new section, fueled by our comprehension and centered completely on the current. As a substitute, it is caught in a holding sample, transferring by means of set items we battle to spend money on as a result of we all know there is a massive reveal coming and nothing can have actual penalties till it does.
I can envision a way more attention-grabbing film wherein all is revealed the second the characters arrive on the diner, about midway by means of, and maybe inside earshot of the opposite individuals inside. The scene would go from being about The Passenger’s escalating frustration at The Driver’s insistence that he’s an harmless, as it’s now, to a conundrum just like the one The Driver faces on the very finish (which is so rapidly resolved it nearly would not register as a alternative). The scene might progress nearly precisely because it does at present, however as a result of we’ve got a transparent understanding of what they each need, the actions they take would have heft. Because it stands, Sympathy for the Satan is a missed alternative with a set of participating moments, none sustained sufficient to essentially fulfill.
Sympathy for the Satan releases in theaters July 28. The movie is 90 minutes lengthy and isn’t but rated.