King of Devil’s Island is an interesting one, to say the least. Based on true events, the film’s focus is a group of boys on what is essentially an island prison. They’re expected to follow the strict regime of work and study or they’ll be severely punished.
The actors deserve major credit, in particular Stellan Skarsgard and Trond Nillsen. These two make the otherwise obvious movie into something worth watching. Skarsgard is the morally dubious manager of the prison-school and gives a stellar, deeply creepy, performance as a man torn between his duty and his morals. Nillsen is solely responsible for fleshing out his character beyond simply being the boy who can nearly leave. He takes the 2D model given to him and adds a depth that makes him an absolute pleasure to watch.
The plot is formulaic at best – a boy rebels against the system and must suffer the consequences of his actions. We’ve all heard this one before. King of Devil’s Island relies heavily on prison movie cliches, but oddly enough they seem to enhance what the film has to say rather than detract from it. Alongside its critique of harsh reform systems, it’s taken on a poignant meaning given our current world stage. What this boils to is rebels fighting against authoritarian controllers.
Saying that, it’s a long time before the film gets anywhere. The message it has is an important one, though watching the movie plod along at a snail’s pace makes it almost not worth the eventual payoff. The final 20 minutes change the pace, definitely for the better.
The film’s message is fully supported by an outstanding set of actors, but let down by a slow and obvious plot. Still, this is a movie well worth watching for the powerhouse performances of the actors. Whilst not a brilliant lesson in pacing and plot, it certainly delivers a good one in acting.