The Devil All The Time Review


Image Courtesy of Netflix

Dylan Hostetter, Arts and Style Editor

A new movie was recently released on Netflix. It is one of the few movies that have been released over the past six monthsーand one of the best. The movie is, of course, “The Devil All The Time.” The film is based on the novel of the same title written by Donald Ray Pollock, who also serves as the film’s narrator. It was directed by Antonio Campos, known for his work on USA Network’s “The Sinner,” and “Christine” (2016). The film’s cast is stacked with outstanding actors such as Tom Holland, Bill Skarsgård, Robert Pattinson, Sebastian Stan, Riley Keough, and Jason Clarke. 

The official synopsis of the film states: “A young man is devoted to protecting his loved ones in a town full of corruption and sinister characters.” The young man the synopsis refers to is Arvin Russel, played by Holland. Arvin Russel is surrounded by many unsavory characters in this film, including a disturbed war veteran father, a husband and wife who are serial killers, a crooked policeman, and a false preacher. Each of these characters is presented with their own journey, and their own unique personality that all find a way to meld perfectly in the end. The interwoven storylines keep the audience on the edge of their seat as they try to guess what will happen next.

The protagonist of the film is a young man named Arvin Russel, played by Tom Holland. While most likely know Holland as the guy that plays Spider-Man in the Marvel movies, this film demonstrates that he is much more than that. The character of Arvin is molded by tragedy, and Holland handles his journey wonderfully. As the lead in the film, Holland perfectly conveys the trauma his character has experienced as well as his devotion to his family. Throughout the entire film, I found myself routing for Arvin to come out on top, which I believe is not only a sign of the great writing, but of Holland’s amazing performance. Holland also provides an on-point southern accent, which is impressive considering he is from the UK.

Speaking of interesting accents, let’s take a moment to look at Robert Pattinson’s performance in this film. Pattinson plays the false preacher, and, aside from Holland, may be the best part of this film. Pattinson plays Reverend Preston Teagardin, who is new to the town, and who has many secrets hidden beneath his charismatic preacher persona. The accent that Pattinson manages to pull off is very interestingーabrasive to the ear, yet perfectly in line with the character. I believe this accent done by any other actor would inevitably drag the performance into comedy, yet Pattinson finds a way to make it sinister. Over the past few years, since his stint as Edward in “Twilight,” Pattinson has made a name for himself in the independent circuit, giving outstanding performances in films such as “Good Time” and “The Lighthouse” (the latter being one of my favorite films of 2019). “The Devil All The Time” is just another instance where Pattinson surprises us with a performance that we didn’t know we needed.

Reverend Preston Teagardin is not the only antagonist of the film. Riley Keough and Jason Clarke play Sandy Henderson and Carl Henderson, respectively. The Hendersons are a pair of married serial killers that offer a through-line of violence and suspense in the film that beautifully contrasts with the other, slower-burning stories. Jason Clarke provides a deliciously suspenseful performance as the photographer-turned killer. One of my favorite scenes in the film involves the Hendersons, but we’ll get to that in a bit.

The final two performances that I want to highlight are those of Bill Skarsgård and Sebastian Stan. Skarsgård is known for playing the maniacal clown Pennywise in “IT,” but presents a more subtle dramatic performance in this film. He plays Holland’s father Willard Russell. Willard is the disturbed war veteran, a part that Skarsgård handles wonderfully. Sebastian Stan is best known for playing Bucky Barnes, a.k.a. The Winter Soldier in the Marvel films, and he plays a crooked Sheriff. Stan gained a considerable amount of weight for the film, demonstrating his commitment to the role. While Sheriff Lee Bodecker isn’t a particularly large character in the overall scope of the movie, he contributes to a few key scenes. With that said, Stan handles it well.

One of the best scenes in the film is between Holland and Pattinson. The scene takes place inside of a church, as Holland’s Arvin confronts Pattinson’s Reverend Teagardin. That’s about all I will say to avoid spoiling anything, but I will say that the scene is a brilliant display of each actor’s ability to deliver a subtle and dramatic performance. My second favorite scene is one between Holland’s Arvin and the Hendersons. From their character descriptions, it is possible to surmise the conditions of the interaction, but again, I will not spoil it. This scene is one of my favorites due to the tension that it builds. While the previous scene is made great by the actors, this one is great due to the immense build-up.

“The Devil All The Time” is a fantastic film and probably my favorite of this year so far. Of course, that’s not saying much, as there have been less than a dozen films released. One of my favorite aspects is the “Pulp Fiction” esque weaving of interesting characters and storylines. In many cases, such stories can be hard to follow and can become convoluted, but I believe this film blends and conveys them perfectly. “The Devil All The Time” is currently available on Netflix, and I definitely recommend checking it out.