“The Devil All the Time” (Film Review): No Place for Divine Retribution

The Devil All the Time (Film Review) – Dark and Unsettling Tale of Troubled Souls

Let me start by saying that the latest Netflix crime drama “The Devil All the Time” is one of the finest films of this year. While some of my friends are not agreed with me, as this was melancholic, dark and a story full of misery and human helplessness, I see this as refreshing and realistic it could be. Yes, there are references to the evil inside any religion, and being god-fearing or believers, but it is more about those who exploit religion and draw the evil in the name of faith than the absence of God. [You may disagree with me.]

Adapted from the novel by Donald Ray Pollock, “The Devil All the Time” is a dark and twisted tale that follows characters in multiple generations and accounts for their ordeals in a postwar traumatic world. Yes, throughout the film, it is hard to picture ‘life’ in general. There is death from start to finish which can be unsettling for many who are looking for feel-good stories.

What’s in the story of “The Devil All the Time”?

The story starts in the year 1945 when US soldier Willard Russell (Bill Skarsgard) and his battalion finds the still-breathing body of Sergeant Miller Jones, who was viciously scalped and crucified by the Japanese. Willard ends the suffering of the mortally wounded soldier, but that frightening incident and dreaded visuals remain with him for the rest of his life. As he returns home and marries a local waitress, he tries hard to bring himself closer to God, and regain his lost faith. In his effort, he not only ends up doing evil things but also affects the life of his younger son (Tom Holland) Arvin forever.

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As a result of the sins of his father, Arvin ends up living with his devotee grandparents and a stepsister Lenora whose mother was killed by her preacher father Roy, again because of some corrupt religious belief. Soon after Roy also became a victim of a serial killer couple with their demented minds. When Arvin’s teenage life further entangles him with more misery and grief, he has no other option but to seek revenge and retribution.

Is “The Devil All the Time” any good?

Directed and co-written by Antonio Campos, “The Devil All the Time” is full of sinister characters, including a sermonizer played by Pattinson, who exploits the blind faith of devotees, and hence he is nothing less than a predator. While the story attacks the blind faith and the existing organized religious beliefs, it generally suggests no difference between god and devil. The cycle of violence continues with every other character, no matter they believe in god or not.

We have some impeccable characterization that goes well with amazing performances. Pattinson and Holland have completely altered their existing images with this insanely violent gothic crime drama. Bill Skarsgard too delivered an intriguing performance as the troubled father of Arvin.

The story essentially shows us how evil deeds pass from one generation to another. At the same time, we need to understand that every religion has charlatans who take advantage of the believers’ faith and hence commits deplorable crimes. In a time where the devotees are blinded by faith and the self-styled ‘godmen’ perpetrate heinous crimes, there is no other option left for the believers but to avenge than praying for divine retribution.

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From narration to cinematography, “The Devil All the Time” captures the essence of the story, that dark and clustrophobic atmosphere. It is indeed a great film to watch if you don’t get easily bothered with constant crime and violence. Here is the movie trailer.

“The Devil All the Time” is now streaming on Netflix.

Tom Holland, Bill Skarsgård, Riley Keough, Robert Pattinson, Mia Wasikowska, Jason Clarke, Sebastian Stan, Haley Bennett, Harry Melling, and Eliza Scanlen.
Directed by Antonio Campos
Screenplay by Antonio Campos, Paulo Campos
Based on The Devil All the Time by Donald Ray Pollock
Genre: Crime Thriller, Thriller Movies, Crime Drama
Release Date/Year: September 11, 2020

A full-time movie geek and part time e-learning professional. He loves to read, write and discuss in length about cinema and the art of filmmaking.

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