In Knockemstiff, Ohio and its neighboring backwoods, sinister characters — an unholy preacher (Robert Pattinson), twisted couple (Jason Clarke and Riley Keough), and crooked sheriff (Sebastian Stan) — converge around young Arvin Russell (Tom Holland) as he fights the evil forces that threaten him and his family. Spanning the time between World War II and the Vietnam war, director Antonio Campos’ The Devil All The Time renders a seductive and horrific landscape that pits the just against the corrupted.
The latest film from director Antonio Campos is not only his strongest work to date, but it is without a doubt one of the best movies of the year so far. It’s dark and punishing which will definitely unsettle a lot of people, but if you feel as though you’re up for the viewing challenge, The Devil All The Time tells a deeply intriguing story and one that is filled with plenty of clever twists and turns that always manage to impress.
Throughout the course of the film, we witness the events of various different points in time for the lives of the characters living in Knockemstiff, Ohio. Surely it’s a great and peaceful place to visit, but in this film, this sleepy town is anything but peaceful. As the movie progresses and as we learn more and more about the lead characters, the more disturbing and brutal the story gets. Some filmmakers would be afraid to go to the places that The Devil All The Time goes, but not Antonio Campos.
Although the film is certainly centered around God, church, and the lives of the people living in this community, the story is anything but holy. It’s violent, it’s uncomfortable, but it all adds up to a gripping story and one that never outstays its welcome. Its intimidating running time (nearly two and a half hours) is one that actually never dawned on me while watching it. During my viewing today, I truly got so invested in the film that it was over before I even knew it.
One of the reasons why it is so easy to get sucked into the film is due to the powerhouse performances from the entire cast. I honestly can’t say that there is one standout actor here, because they are all great. Surprisingly, each of the characters get fairly equal amounts of screentime too.
Tom Holland portrays Arvin Russell and delivers the strongest performance of his career so far. Although I definitely enjoyed watching him as the iconic web-slinger Spider-Man in the Marvel Cinematic Universe more, his performance here is definitely better. His Marvel role is more fun and cheery, but as Arvin Russell, he is genuinely chilling and shockingly unsettling to watch at times. Holland is definitely one of the most promising actors working today and it seems as if his work just keeps getting better and better.
Not to be overlooked here though is Robert Pattinson as Reverend Preston Teagardin. It is a little bit tricky to talk about these characters without spoiling anything, but all I’ll say is that Pattinson does a fantastic job at playing the character, and, much like Holland, he continues to prove he is a force to be reckoned with in the film industry.
All of these actors come together in a film that feels equally rewarding and punishing. The film doesn’t spend too much time focusing on the community as a whole, but rather a select group of people, and it would’ve been nice to have seen a little bit more of that but regardless, this is a deeply investing story of grief and despair. There are some glimmers of hope present throughout The Devil All The Time, but it’s mainly a diverting and grim story of corruption and lost faith in the best and most disturbing way possible.
The Devil All The Time is a diverting and grim story of corruption and lost faith told with remarkable skill from director Antonio Campos.
Overall Grade: A-
MPAA Rating: R for violence, bloody/disturbing images, sexual content, graphic nudity, and language throughout
Directed by: Antonio Campos
Distributed by: Netflix
Release Date: September 16, 2020
Running Time: 138 minutes