The Devil All the Time Spoiler Free Movie Review


Image courtesy of The Garnette Report

During this pandemic, the majority of the movie industry has shut down due to the closings of theatres. But one streaming service has risen above the rest, and was able to continuously put out movies that people could access from the comfort of their own home: Netflix. On Wednesday, September 16th, Netflix released their latest movie The Devil All the Time, based off the book by Donald Ray Pollock of the same name. This psychological thriller is set in the 1960’s in small town America, where it follows Arvin (Tom Holland) as he navigates a world full of corrupt and greedy characters, such as the new preacher in town (Robert Pattison) and the county Sheriff (Sebastian Stan).

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The movie jumps frequently between plotlines and characters, but it never seems too hard to keep track of where you are. The opening is about 15 minutes of flashbacks, including the story of Arvin’s father (Bill Skarsgård) through his time in WWII and Arvin’s childhood. Skarsgård gives a knockout performance as a tortured and traumatized veteran as he clings on to his last bit of hope. The story also follows the plotlines of Arvin’s adopted sister Lenola (Played by the convincely naive Eliza Scanlen), as well as a pair of serial killers (Jason Clarke and Riley Keough). While this may seem like too big of a cast to keep straight, the characters are introduced slowly and with enough context to keep the plot linear. The narration, provided by book author Donald Ray Pollock offers clarification and some light humor, though it is weirdly spaced out through the film.

The film definitely earns its hard R rating: there’s violence, suicide, nudity, drugs, and everything in between. While some of the violence is shocking or more unprovoked, it all lends itself to the plot. The film does a good job of not glamorizing the violence, or adding gratuitous violence for the sake of shock value without adding to the story.
The thing that stands out the most in the film is the acting. Every single actor gives a convincing and standout performance. Holland breaks out of his “Spiderman” mold to play a character grittier than anything seen from him to this point. He doesn’t disappoint, infusing Arvin with both a gentle loyalty, as well as a healthy heaping of trauma and violence. Pattison, while only on screen for a minor amount of time, gives an equally creepy and stellar performance as the corrupt pastor. The British actor dons a high-pitched, flamboyant southern accent that fully grounds the character while he is both preaching sermons at the top of his lungs, or whispering horrible things to other characters. There is not a single performance in the film that disappoints, and the lives these characters live keep you invested throughout the entire 2 hour 20 minute runtime.

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Not every storyline is as fleshed out, however. Sebastian Stan plays corrupt Sheriff Lee Bodecker who finds himself entangled in the proceedings of the film. While Stan gives a fantastic performance, especially in the final scene, the character has some pretty unfulfilling writing. There’s an entire subplot of the movie with an underground mob boss that never gets fully realized, and just feels like it’s dragging the movie out.
Another notable thing about the film is the production design. The film ranges from the 1940’s to the 1960’s, and the wardrobe and set design create a perfect atmosphere. It’s gritty, dirty, hyper-realistic, and does a superb job of mirroring the darker themes of the film. The costumes are purposefully vague in their specific time period, which helps the viewer take the film all in one sitting instead of getting disoriented by the time jumps.
Overall, the movie is great if you’re looking for something gritty and dramatic you can watch from the comfort of your own home. While there may be some issues with storylines and pacing, it’s an engaging film that will keep you on the edge of your seat.