The Devil All the Time does not provide uniqueness in terms of the narrative structure. It’s more concerned with the rendition of its multifold themes as effectively as possible. At 138 leisurely paced minutes, it checks the basics with the expected number of body count and gore. But it also leaps ahead by making the carnage influential by having a substantial, lasting effect.
Based on Donald Ray Pollock’s novel of the same name, its story spans across 22 years. And frankly, it includes many people. At the center of the narrative is the Russell family – featuring Bill Skarsgard and Tom Holland as the father-son duo. They never share a scene, as the timelines play a vital role. But their connection is felt throughout. The former actor drives the first act, being less vocal yet powerfully expressive; the latter takes charge afterward.
Accompanying them is half-a-dozen familiar faces. Dudley Dursley, aka Harry Melling; Tenet star Robert Pattinson; the M.C.U heartthrob, Sebastian Stan; Girlfriend Experience actress Riley Keough; and the forever excellent Jason Clarke. A few other notable actors also portray essential characters, with each sub-plots intertwining during the final act, into a foreseen but riveting finish.
The film serves as a room for change for some of its actors who are part of franchise films. The most famous star includes Tom Holland, who gets to be the story’s focal point. Following a superbly established arc in the first act, Holland fits his role. His younger version (played by Michael Banks Repeta) feels identical, and its a brilliant casting decision.
Skipping the good aspects and weighing on the bad and the ugly, the film underscores the significance of religion and its impact on people. There is a lot the film says about Christianity, and despite knowing nothing profound about it, there is a lot for everyone to take in.
The extreme violence and grotesqueness keep the tone perpetually grim and sinful, justifying the film’s title. Through each heinous acts done by the characters, you begin to question how fair is it to be religious? How far can people go insane by being tenaciously ritualistic? Is religion always the right answer to pain and misery? There is plenty of subtexts the film provides.
You both contemplate and fear imagining how you would deal if caught up in a similar situation. The scenes are less dramatized and hence, evoke genuine dread. Pattinson gets to play an immoral preacher, and he is effortless. It is such a delight to see him choose versatile roles over the last couple of years. However, the character that emerges the most relatable is Tom Holland’s Robert.
Though he nearly plays his age, his role demands a mature performance, and he gives his very best. Various times during the second act, the flow of the story gets chaotic for juggling multiple storylines. Holland’s arc helps maintain your engagement. His screen presence remains phenomenal, and by the time the anticipated climactic slaughter arrives, you root for him to survive.
Riley Keough as Jason Clarke’s troubled wife, also leaves a lasting impression. Though every important character pushes you to dwell on, her character lingers in your mind the most. Special mention goes to Sebastian Stan as well, who elevates a very generic role of a corrupt cop through an impressive aesthetic and strong acting.
As per the usual Netflix standard, the technicalities are top-notch. The cinematography, at times, is mesmerizing, and the make-up & hairstyling is thoroughly excellent. As an adaptation, the film appears to be quite fulfilling. Though I haven’t read the book, the gloomy tone and the deliberately leisured pace seems to be justifying the story’s profane essence.
There is a lot of violence and disturbing content in the movie that doesn’t make it appropriate for a general movie audience. However, those who admire Tom Holland and Robert Pattinson will be amused, seeing them play sinister characters. And if you find this genre appealing, with character-oriented stories that are meaningful but equally satanic, The Devil All the Time will definitely satisfy you.
You can stream The Devil All the Time on Netflix.
Rating: 3 / 5
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