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2012 Fellow in Nicholl AgentAaron Hart, Adam Levine, Rob Herting (Verve) ManagerAlex Lerner (Kaplan Perrone)
Stepan, an alcoholic detective working as an agent for Internal Affairs inside the Stalin-ruled government of the 1937 Soviet Union, finds a list of traitors that he believes will help him win a competition that will free him of his miserable life in Moscow.
The Inner Circle(1991), The Lives of Others, High and Low, Reds,
1930s; Several weeks
Stalin's 1930s Soviet Russia; Scenes in Railroads, Gulags, Frozen Tundras, Newspaper Factories, Government Buildings, Work Camps, Apartment Complexes, Rural Areas
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STEPAN(50s), a Captain in Stalin’s 1930s Soviet Union, enters his workplace at Lubyanka Headquarters amidst a snowy, windy day, greeting fellow CAPTAIN TRYUIN(30s). Later in the day he meets up with his old friend and superior MAJOR MISHIN(60s), nicknamed Old Bear. As the two get reacquainted with another, with Stepan once again asking about a transfer out of Lubyanka, Mishin introduces him to LIEUTENANT ILYCH SIDOROV(20s), who will be shadowing Stepan, much to his displeasure. After the two men exchange frigid pleasantries, Stepan leads Ilych to a Moscow apartment building where they arrest DMITRY(20s) in the middle of the night for allegations of conspiracy in front of his wife YULIYA(20s) their younger daughter. Yuliya hands over a raincoat, locket, and shoebox over to Dmitry before he’s whisked away. Stepan confiscates the raincoat and shoebox, taking it back to his apartment. He later finds an injured rabbit inside the box, and instead of killing it, helps to nurse it back to health. Stepan returns to his government job to find that Major Mishin had been executed brutally inside the Lubyanka prison by presiding lieutenants VOLKOV(30s) and NAZYUTA(30s). The General Commissar of State Security, COMISSAR YEZHOV(40s) arrives the same day, and announces...
OVERALL (Strong Recommend)
"Devils at Play" is a terse and suspenseful drama that is populated by a poignant array of characters who possess a tremendous amount of depth and authenticity in their development as they face the many internal and external conflicts. Taking a complicated setting such as the Soviet Union in the throes of Stalin's 1937 rule, and adding an equally complex plot involving the inner workings of the Soviet government as well as following a conflicted detective as he uncovers a convoluted trail of answers surrounding a mysteriously coded list, the writer manages to tie everything together into a fast paced and well executed final package. With a consistent barrage of "twists" and "turns" the writer is continuously able to take the droll nature of the complexity of his setting and plot and turn it into a suspenseful and intriguing mystery that manages to, both, entertain and outsmart an audience....
After years of Stepan working for Russian Internal Affairs, he finally finds a possible guilty suspect and believes that busting him will be his way out of his work for good. The premise is built with deliberate and cohesive structure with the competition, the investigation and the secrets surrounding them. Stepan is a stubborn character with drive, emotional flaws, and a dimly lit moral compass. His weaknesses make him well rounded and serve for conflict and reality. The dialogue is purposeful, driven and filled with a consistent tone, with differences between characters. Though sometimes lengthy, the description and action are written with visual prowess....
An investigative drama set in Stalin's 1930s Communist Russia, this is a story that nails it on the drama but falls short of really putting us into the setting. Given that the main plot line is rock solid, this gets a Recommendation on it's effectiveness in that regard; even if the use of the historical locale is disappointing in it's execution to really set it apart....
“Devils at Play” begins as an intriguing investigation into the life and mindset of Stepan, a worker for Internal Affairs in 1937 Russia, a time when the second wave of the revolution was rising to power, when the climate shifted from Stalin to Lenin. After a powerful first act, where Stepan questions his character and role in the post-revolution environment, the focus shifts toward a detective/crime genre where he struggles to solve a mystery and win his freedom. Emerging in the end as a true communist, by sacrificing himself for the greater good, Stephan completes his arc and satisfies the question proposed by the premise, however, the middle suffers by drifting away from a study of the larger questions of the human condition in favor of a mediocre detective style narrative with several holes in logic. The dialogue is more inline with Brooklyn PD, with lots of cussing, than it is with 1937 Moscow. The execution paints a bleak, one-sided view of Russia with everyone in it coming across as more stereotyped than real, which contracts with the descriptions that try to establish a tone of realism....