Protecting evil as a trial defense lawyer Keanu Reeves character Kevin Lomax represents bad in the form of good in the “Devil’s Advocate.” Walking the tightrope in the fine line between right and wrong. Sworn to provide the best possible defense to clients he knows are guilty.
Right and wrong gets lost in the blur of winning and losing. To win at all costs can make you both right and evil at the same time. At the same time, losing can be regarded as doing what is right. As this movie draws you in, you can be torn by the dichotomy of what is truly right or wrong.
Character John Milton (Al Pacino) named after the 16th century poet John Milton of “Paradise Lost” fame, mirrors throughout the movie some of the works of the famous poet. Most notably the quote, ” Better to reign in hell than to serve in Heaven. “
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It’s like one big test. Kevin’s Mom warns, “Wide is the gate and broad is the way that leadeth to temptation.” What seems like good, is evil in disguise. The fruits of Kevin’s labor are fruits of blood money.
There are so many subtle nuances in this story that a person cannot really catch all of it in one viewing. This is one of those classic pictures where no matter how many times you watch it, you make new discovery in every viewing.
Kevin squeezes his clients through the door of reasonable doubt. He is especially good at finding sympathetic juries. He battles the emotions of beginning the cases with a clear conscience, and then suffers through doing his duty as a lawyer. In facing this pressure, some focus while others fold.
Milton tries to reassure Kevin by telling him that his vanity is justified. That every human becomes his own God. Everything Kevin experiences is a test leading to the ultimate showdown in which Kevin trumps Satan’s power be exercising his free will. But this isn’t the end of the story. The devil only seems defeated here.
The devil states that he has been underestimated from day 1. They don’t see him coming. It’s the epic war in a no man’s land between the mind and body.
The vanity of man is the big theme of the movie. Temptation of things we don’t even see as evil within ourselves. Our pride and ego gets in the way of knowing we are bad.
The phrase “Behold, I send you out as sheep amongst the wolves” is used over and over in this story. The classic picture of good and evil. Sheep appearing to be defenseless but never the less having their free will to trump evil. Satan denies the guilt stating that he simply sets the stage, and we pull our own strings.
In the end, Milton breaks the fourth wall and speaks to the audience, telling us that vanity is definitely his favorite sin. This is the cautioning message of the movie. We can see ourselves in an innocent light, when in truth our vanity becomes our own undoing.