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Movie Review: The Devil All The Time ★★★★☆

A southern gothic bound by faith and religion

Directed by Antonio Campos     |     Released 2020    |     Runtime 2h 18m

The Devil All the Time is a Netflix original movie based on the 2011 award winning novel by Donald Ray Pollock. It’s directed by Antonio Campos and Jake Gyllenhaal is one of the producers. The film brings an ensemble of credible actors together and transports them to rural southern Ohio and West Virginia, as it follows their stories from the end of World War II to the 1960s. Tom Holland (yes, our beloved Spiderman) is one of the leading stars, alongside our future Batman Robert Pattinson, and Bill Skarsgård (aka. Pennywise the Dancing Clown). The film offers up a host of sinister characters, juxtaposed with the do-good Russell family who are faced with harsh times and the evil that threatens their livelihood.

The Devil All the Time is a compelling and suspenseful watch, with finely-woven narratives and intertwining stories. Echoing the kind of storytelling seen in films like Crash (2004), whereby a series of characters with mostly separate lives collide and accumulate to an explosive ending, director Antonio Campos delivers this notion with a fresh approach. The film is satisfyingly gritty and gripping, guided by the narrator who breaks up the years, months, and key moments which are significant to the conclusion. Outstandingly, no cast member fails in their delivery; whether it’s Holland as he angrily battles with being let down by life’s injustices and his tortured path to revenge, or it’s Pattinson’s Cadillac driving preacher who comes to town to spread malice and prey on the vulnerable through the façade of the Lord. With Pattinson, we certainly couldn’t get enough of his eccentric, high-pitched and elongated deliveries! Skarsgård also elegantly and effortlessly portrays the grieving, hard-working and hard-done-by father, with a mind so fragile that the notion of sacrificing one life to save another is almost believable to him.

Then there’s the Bonnie & Clyde duo gone wrong; Jason Clarke and Riley Keough team up as the Henderson’s to get their sexual kicks through brutal means, and boy, do they do this with enough pizzazz to keep you both entertained and afraid. Harry Melling also offers an outstanding performance in his opening scene at the church; no longer a Dudley Dursley of the world, Melling delves into the dark depths of a twisted man, whilst Sebastian Stan mirrors such slithery ways as the crooked cop. Each character is so different but in this Christian society, they are all bound by the church and the influence it has on the local people; there’s the dangerously devout, and those that use the devout to their advantage. In Devil All the Time, each individual decision will inflict trauma and cruelty onto another person, making it quite a heavy watch full of dark, heart-breaking moments.

Fascinating characters and emotional performances may be the film’s winning attribute, but it’s ripeness also ensures it keeps audiences invested. It’s a slow burner but at no point is it boring, and, mostly true to the original text, Campos delivers an atmospheric and grim watch that neatly places itself into the contemporary noir genre. Brutality comes in the form of emotionally tough scenes and physically repelling situations; in this world, there’s illness in many forms, cruelty with many faces and enough shock-horror moments to keep you reeled in. The Devil sure blows up a storm and pits the good against the deadbeats, delinquents and killers in a game of dumb luck and fate. “There’s a lotta no-good sons of bitches out there’’ and this premise certainly makes The Devil one of Netflix’s most prized originals that thankfully didn’t oversell itself or fail to meet viewers expectations.

SB Rating = ★★★★☆

What do you think?

Written by Juliette Perks

If Jules isn’t watching movies, she’s listening to them. She loves movie scores, binge-watching content, seeking out hidden gems in foreign cinema, and her passion for Nolan, Tarantino and Fincher is not to be trifled with. She holds a masters degree in Film & Television Aesthetics.

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