It’s a tough, bru­tal world in ‘The Devil All the Time’

Arab News - - Lifestyle, Art & Culture - Matt Ross London

The star-stud­ded cast of “The Devil All the Time” prom­ises big things. Tom Hol­land and Sebastian Stan (both main­stays of the Mar­vel cin­e­matic uni­verse), Bill Skars­gård (fresh from trau­ma­tiz­ing a new gen­er­a­tion in the “It” movie re­makes), Ja­son Clarke (“First Man” and “Pet Se­matary”) and new Bat­man Robert Pat­tin­son all signed on for this Net­flix thriller, di­rected and co-writ­ten by An­to­nio Cam­pos, one of the film­mak­ers in­volved in the re­cent COVID-era an­thol­ogy “Homemade.”

Based on the novel by Don­ald Ray Pol­lock, who takes a turn as the movie’s nar­ra­tor, “The Devil

All the Time” fol­lows a dis­parate group of char­ac­ters in post-war Ohio and West Vir­ginia. Re­turn­ing soldier Wil­lard Rus­sell (Skars­gård) be­lieves he’s left the war be­hind him when he meets wait­ress Char­lotte (Ha­ley Ben­nett). The two have a son, Arvin. But de­spite these pos­i­tive over­tones, Cam­pos’ world is one of ever-present me­nace, with cor­rupt of­fi­cials, twisted lovers and char­la­tan preach­ers be­hind seem­ingly ev­ery cor­ner, wait­ing to sully any glim­mer of op­ti­mism with de­prav­ity.

Adult Arvin (played with sur­pris­ing grit and grav­i­tas by Hol­land, bet­ter known for his bright-and-breezy Spi­der-Man) strug­gles to cope with the bru­tal­ity of the world as it bat­ters him at ev­ery turn. When vile preacher Pre­ston Tea­gardin (Pat­tin­son) rolls into town, his sin­is­ter in­ten­tions are tele­graphed from the get go and, un­sur­pris­ingly, his preda­tory na­ture kick­starts a chain of events that lifts the lid on the dark­est pos­si­ble side of 1960s USA.

Hol­land is a joy to watch, his dra­matic heft be­ly­ing his young age. Pat­tin­son is, quite sim­ply, hor­rif­i­cally in­tox­i­cat­ing, throw­ing him­self into the role with all the sneer­ing vile­ness he can muster. The two Brits steal the lion’s share of the lime­light, but Cam­pos’ film ben­e­fits from the high-cal­iber en­sem­ble. Sim­ply by point­ing a cam­era at them, the direc­tor is onto a win­ner.

The movie doesn’t shy away from vi­o­lence, and some scenes are a lit­tle tough to take. And it’s an un­re­lent­ing sec­ond half as Hol­land’s world comes tum­bling down in rel­a­tively short or­der. “The Devil Al the Time” is a bru­tal, vis­ceral ex­pe­ri­ence. But great per­for­mances from a stel­lar cast make it an en­gag­ing one.

Robert Pat­tin­son (left) and Tom Hol­land in ‘The Devil All The Time.’ Net­flix

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