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Film Review: The Devil All The Time (2020)

Director: Antonio Campos
Writers: Antonio Campos, Paulo Campos
Starring: Tom Holland, Robert Pattinson, Riley Keough, Jason Clarke, Bill Skarsgård, Sebastian Stan, Eliza Scanlen
Based on: The Devil all the Time by Donald Ray Pollock
Released by: Netflix

Synopsis: Sinister characters converge around a young man devoted to protecting those he loves in a postwar backwoods town teeming with corruption and brutality.

This is a film that was highly anticipated for many people, even with a trailer that gave very little away about the plot or premise, due to the impressive cast that the film boasted. However, I was slightly hesitant about how some of these actors would transition to a film of these sorts of themes and dark tone. The main one I was curious about was Tom Holland, who has become well known for his work as Peter Parker in the MCU’s Spider-Man films. This is a completely different film from anything else he has done, and quite simply he pulled it off. This is the best work he has ever given as he has so much range and passion in him to make us follow his character in particular and see every movement and moment that shaped who he was. Holland makes us believe all of the pain that he went through and for a film this dark, I was incredibly impressed.

Of course though, it is not just Holland who impresses here. Whilst he has less screen-time that may be expected, Robert Pattinson is a scene-stealer in every moment that he is in focus. Yes, his accent is impressive, but his performance is more than just a voice change. Pattinson changes his behaviour, his posture, even down to his eyes. There is a presence in him in this film that he has never shown and it is impressive. With every performance that I see him in, he gets better and better every single time.

It is important to note that this film is rated 18 on Netflix, and there are clear reasons as to why this is. Not only is this a film about preaching and faith, so much so that there are scenes including animal sacrifices (particularly of a pet dog) and crucifixion, but there are also references to suicide, hitch-hiking murders, nudity and corrupt policemen. This is not an easy watch, but it is one that is impactful and is not afraid to show all. With the perspective focused on the small good part of the corrupt town, the audience is given someone who we want to protect and look after (flaws and all) whilst we watch the rest of the story unravel and get more twisted.

There are numerous storylines that run throughout the film, and the general story is spread over a long period of time. Most scripts would struggle to manage this many storylines, and yet pieces of the jigsaw came together naturally to make the story flow cohesively. The main characters had natural progression and acted as expected, the town started to link together through the neighbours and made the journey easy to go through, even if the subject matters were hard to watch. Whilst I could guess where a lot of the plot was going or what would happen, the way scenes were shot and how much was shown on camera still gave me a shock despite the fact that I could predict the action.

There has been a debate going around after the release of The Devil All The Time on whether a 2.5-hour film was the best way to present this story. Due to how many storylines and the timespan of the narrative, people were debating on whether this would have worked better as a mini-series from Netflix. Whilst I could definitely see the project working as a mini-series, particularly in further developing characters such as Sebastian Stan’s Deputy Lee Bodecker, in general I had no issues with the story being told in a film. I had no issues with the pacing, the amount of storylines or keeping up with characters and their situations, and that is down to the strong script keeping every aspect tied together.

When the trailer dropped for The Devil All The Time, I was unsure of where the story would go and what the film would try to say. Instead of trying to be symbolic and un to interpretation, this film gets the message it wants loud and clear and doesn’t shy away from the controversial topics at hand. It is dark, gritty and intense and I was wrapped up in it the entire time. This is certainly not a film for everyone, but I was seriously impressed.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

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