Devs: The emptiness of Causality?

devAlex Garland continues to be one of the more interesting writers/directors working today- frustratingly, of course, his recent films have all suffered difficulties; Annihilation being sold straight to streaming via Netflix in territories outside the United States, while Ex Machina had a switch in theatrical distributor that did it few favours.

Leaving movies behind him, Garland seems to have found new and exciting freedom and opportunity in television:  Devs, currently airing here in the UK on BBC2 and available in its entirety on iPlayer, is a deeply thoughtful and intellectually challenging tech-thriller, entirely written and directed by Garland – presumably ensuring he was afforded complete creative control. Deeply thoughtful, it is also graced with some gorgeous photography and art direction, with some arresting and quite chilling imagery (there are few moments that literally set the hairs on the back of my neck standing on end): its ironically, perhaps, very cinematic. Like both Ex Machina and Annihilation, its cinematic with ideas, and compliments those two films (particularly the first) very well indeed, with questions about identity, freewill and the nature of Reality.

What anyone really takes away from the series, though, likely depends on what they think of the series finale. Devs is a one-off, with Garland clear he does not envisage a second season being likely. On the one hand, its refreshing to watch a series and not be left with a tease for another season next year- instead, across its eight episodes the show has a definite beginning, middle and end. The issue is of course, after eight hours of deepening mysteries and tantalising possibilities, that some viewers might be left frustrated by how Devs concludes, especially when one considers that it demands some work from the viewer to interpret what they are seeing and what everything means.

Devs is definitely, deliberately high-concept.  Its a dark tech-thriller about Quantum computing, the dichotomy of freewill in a deterministic universe, the alternatives inherent in multiverse theory, virtual time travel…  its certainly rich with ideas and has lots of twists. Its like the absolute antithesis of stuff like the recent Star Trek: Picard. It also looks great, too, sumptuously designed and directed with a great cast and interesting characters, so again, yeah, the absolute antithesis of stuff like the recent Star Trek: Picard.

I really enjoyed it (binged it over three nights) and would love to expound upon what I think it was all about, what the ending really meant, etc. but as the series is still being aired over here I think I’ll refrain from this for awhile, at least until the comments section (if anyone has seen the whole thing and want to chip in with their thoughts please do). Suffice to say it really is very, very good and deserves to be seen by as many people as possible- certainly it would be nice for Garland’s work to get a wider audience this time around. So yes, I’d heartily recommend it, and hopefully it will lead to more such projects in future.

 

4 thoughts on “Devs: The emptiness of Causality?

  1. I didn’t even know this existed until the day before it aired when someone mentioned it on Twitter, which felt weird — I believe it’s already finished airing in the US, and, considering the acclaim for Ex Machina and Annihilation, I’d’ve thought certain people would’ve been abuzz about it. I’m glad they’ve put it all up on iPlayer, because it sounds like bingeing will be beneficial. I think I’ll have to let it leapfrog a whole bunch of stuff and make it my next watch…

  2. Matthew McKinnon

    I’m not going near this. There’s a reason Garland’s stuff doesn’t do well, and that’s because he’s not a very good writer or director.

    He’s got an eye for a trendy concept and look, but his films are almost always disappointing and utterly hollow.

    The Beach was shit, Sunshine (which I like a lot) was a mess for its third act, Never Let Me Go was nonsense, Dredd (which I also like a lot) was hampered by his hijacking the entire film in post-production to further his own career, Ex Machina was like buying a top of the line iPhone and finding it runs Windows 95, Annihilation was a sloppy adaptation and a slog,; I’ve finally learned my lesson: stop watching his stuff.

    So there.

  3. Pingback: The 2020 List: April – the ghost of 82

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