Movie Review: The Devil All the Time

“The Devil All the Time” follows a father and then later his son as they deal with the various evil forces that threaten their family in a small Ohio town in 1960

by Alejandro Olsen, Reporter

Antonio Campos directs his first star-studded cast in the new Netflix hit, The Devil All the Time. Released on Sept. 16, Tom Holland leads in a cast that includes Marvel co-star Sebastian Stan as well as Robert Pattinson, Riley Keough, Jason Clarke, and Bill Skarsgård. The gritty crime/drama follows a father and then later his son as they deal with the various evil forces that threaten their family in a small Ohio town in 1960.

The Devil All the Time is praised for its cast, but what is more interesting is the man pulling the strings, Director Antonio Campos. One of the more underrated directors of our time, his 2008 debut, Afterschool, was not only promising, but a masterpiece in itself. He has an understanding of human nature that not many are able to capture consistently, and while his cynical perspective is not for everyone, he’s undeniably able to give his actors the platform for a great performance. Credit should especially be given to him for The Devil All the Time in which he directs an incredibly complex character narrative that juggles a large variety of well-known actors. The fact that this is a period piece is equally as impressive, and although the time period is not completely integral to the plot, the details that Campos puts into it is much appreciated. From the slicked back, greasy hairdos to the Volkswagen vans, it is very much obvious that it is the sixties. But it is not one of those obnoxious, new-song-every-five-minutes period pieces either. It’s subtle, but the atmosphere is immaculate. Campos isn’t perfect though; there was something lacking about this movie on visual terms. It just felt flat, which isn’t a very nice contrast to a story so darkly tragic, but I suppose it was serviceable in some sense.

The thrilling, dark odyssey of the story itself was, again, most likely a challenge for Campos. Its mosaic structure, similar to Cianfrance’s The Place Beyond the Pines, provides a variety of different characters and timelines that could have made for a mess, but they were all woven together in such a satisfying and engaging way that I further commend directors like Campos who are willing to take risks, and while, yes, it is a bit bloated, a bit self-indulgent, and overall just a bit rough around the edges, its flaws are easily overshadowed. The Devil All the Time is consistently confrontational, and uses both violence and worldly pessimism to seize the audience’s attention. Religion is a theme often brought up in movies, and while one might dismiss this as another Hollywood Christianity bashing, it actually deals with Religion quite respectively; emphasizing how it can be manipulated for evil rather than being evil in itself. The way faith itself was presented, in terms of the lead, was just incredibly relatable, and specifically, the feeling of being lost in a world without the cushion of belief in a higher power was a concept glued in my mind hours after finishing the movie itself. Reflecting back on the story, it felt almost disturbingly biblical in itself. The Shakespearean-esque tale of father and son was tragic, and, finally getting to the cast, Bill Skarsgård embodies the disheartening sorrow of the father character. Encapsulating perhaps the complete opposite is Robert Pattinson, who emits the vile degenerate-ness needed for his character. The cast is huge, but surprisingly, Tom Holland might have given the best performance as the main character. His realized expression of past shaping man and the ongoing journey for existential warmth is simply Oscar-worthy.

The Devil All the Time is dark, gritty, violent, and depressing; a bleak world-view not for everyone, but intricately crafted characters, an engaging story structure, Tom Holland, and challenging themes may attract viewers looking for a good Netflix watch. It’s not a perfect movie, but all things considered, its incredible achievements far outweigh its minute flaws. I’d give The Devil All the Time a 9/10.