Generally speaking, Netflix doesn't have the best track record when it comes to their original films. While some of their films in recent years have shown that they can produce quality originals, like Marriage Story and El Camino, given the vast quantity of originals they release (nearly one a week), one would expect better quality more often.
Based on the novel by Donald Ray Pollock, The Devil All the Time is Netflix’s newest original with a stellar cast including Tom Holland, Robert Pattinson, Sebastian Stan, Bill Skarsgard, and Jason Clarke. The film follows Arvin, a young man dealing with his past while trying to protect those around him from a large cast of sinister characters including a husband and wife serial-killer duo, a sleazy preacher, and a crooked sheriff. Throughout the course of the film, Arvin’s story crosses paths with these characters, leaving him to do what is necessary to keep those he loves out of harm's way.
A darkly twisted tale
The main thing that will either turn people away or attract them to The Devil All the Time is the dark nature of the film. Things always seem to take a wrong turn for our characters and horrific incidents are constantly occurring. It takes many gutsy moves from the book by showcasing the sinister nature of the characters, which will make most viewers unhappy. Sticking too close to the source material can sometimes worsen a film. However, in this instance, the dark elements from the book are completely necessary to tell this tale, as they are the meat of the story. This makes for a breath of fresh air, as it is not concerned with pleasing everyone.
The entire cast gives incredible performances. Holland and Pattison were able to get lost in their role to give performances we haven't seen from them previously. For instance, Pattison was able to disappear into the horrific character he plays so well that you only see the manipulative pastor, not the actor. Skarsgard, Stan, and Clarke do the same by transforming into their characters so well that you don’t see them or any of the characters they’ve portrayed before.
A complex story
The film does a great job of balancing all of its characters. The story is not complex in the sense that it is metaphoric, but in a way that there is a large list of characters and all of them connect in one way or another. Each character’s actions are part of the whole domino effect witnessed over the course of two-plus hours. There is not a second wasted in the film that does not build up to the climax. All of the actions the characters make have consequences that play a part later on in the film. Even our protagonist Arvin has his own demons that he struggles with, and he will commit actions a typical protagonist would not do.
The story constantly shifts around and leaves you questioning what’s going to happen next. The characters' actions are unpredictable but still stay in line with who they are. Because of their nature, the movie is able to explore its themes of evil and power in different situations. We see how people in a position of power, like Reverend Teagardin and Sheriff Bodecker, abuse that power for their own benefits. Likewise, the film also explores the positions of power in relationships, and the effects those can have.
The only problem with the film is its cinematography. At times, scenes are only enhanced by it, making for beautiful shots of the setting and characters. However, the first act of the movie has some scenes which take place at night, and it was difficult to make out what was happening. Even while watching the movie at night in the dark on a T.V. screen, these night scenes were still hard to see. It doesn’t affect the film overall, but it does become frustrating since everything bleeds together.
Featured Image: IMDb