The first television show produced by FX to stream exclusively on Hulu, Devs has also got to be one of the most beautiful productions of 2020, a year decidedly in need of beauty. Ostensibly a sci fi story mixed with techno thriller, Devs quickly reveals itself as a surreal suspense story that would indeed make David Lynch and the Wachowskis proud.
It’s also written and directed by Alex Garland of Ex Machina, Annihilation, and Dredd fame, among others. We really love pretty much everything Garland has ever done, and your home projector likely agrees. Not only can you be sure the visual style of anything he’s involved with will be spectacular, you’re also assured a good story. And if you’re a gamer then the bonus comes in the shape of numerous references to games you’ve probably played, as Garland is a devout gamer himself.
From a cinematography and production standpoint, Devs rivals the biggest movie releases and is a wonder for HDR lovers. Big vistas to urban landscapes and technological wonders brimming with golden shine, Devs has it all and should be enjoyed on a big screen with proper high dynamic range implementation.
The main protagonist in Devs is played by the brilliant Sonoya Mizuno, who previously collaborated with Garland on Ex Machina and Annihilation. Mizuno portrays Lily Chan, a software developer at massive tech corporation Amaya, implied to be a sort of Google and Apple rolled into one. Her boss and founder of the company, Forest, is done by Nick Offerman in a decidedly serious role that’s not typical of him (he’s mostly known as a comedian, chiefly in Parks and Recreation). His name is very apropos, seeing as most of the Amaya compound is surrounded by Californian forest. Being a tech giant, Amaya is naturally located outside San Francisco.
While working at Amaya seems like a dream job for Lily and her boyfriend (played by Karl Glusman), things rapidly go mysterious when the latter literally disappears in a secluded and highly classified portion of the company’s campus. Lily starts to ask questions, which brings her into conflict with the company’s security chief (a very menacing Zach Grenier) and Forest’s trusted second, Katie, played by the ever-excellent Alison Pill.
While the cast is superb and Garland’s story compelling, what really works is just how believable and realistic Devs feels. Though set nominally in the unspecified future (at least from the perspective of someone watching in 2020), the technology seems familiar, as do the locations and the concept of a technology company so powerful, it can practically shape reality.
But Devs toys with these concepts to the merry tune of nothing being what it seems and everything having a question mark affixed to it. Sonoya Mizuno powers the show by providing an incredible ambassador for the audience. She’s just as lost in the bizarre story as viewers are, the result being that you never feel out of touch even as Devs questions the very nature of the universe.
The amazing visual look of Devs seals the deal. This is par for the course with Alex Garland and his friend and cinematographer Rob Hardy, who previously did the photography for Ex Machina and Annihilation.
Scenes set in San Francisco appear completely normal, even mundane – but hide huge amounts of detail for those who like to pause and observe. We then have the forest segments, often laden with strange and beautiful lighting effects that’ll have you appreciating the contrast ratio and peak brightness of your projector, especially if you can watch Devs in 4K.
But the most awe-inspiring parts occur within the heart of Amaya, where the core development of the plot takes place. Shimmering golden surfaces, outlandish computers with more glitter than Fort Knox, and a mood so pervasive you feel like you’re there. Visually and thematically, Devs transpires in several worlds, and as we said, you should enjoy it on a format that will do this show justice. This isn’t something for the smartphone commute session.
We wholeheartedly recommend Devs. Apt, relevant, and beautiful, it’s the kind of TV show you’ll enjoy and then come back to for more meaning and layers, because it sure has plenty of both.