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The Devil All The Time review: Is the religiously dark thriller worth watching?

Robert Pattinson as Preston Teagardin
Robert Pattinson as Preston Teagardin. Pic credit: Glen Wilson/Netflix

The Devil All The Time debuts on Netflix next week and possesses a cast that can only be described as divine.

The film — based on a novel by Donald Ray Pollock — is headlined by Tom Holland, Robert Pattinson, and Bill Skarsgard, and tells a brutal weaving story of the sins of one generation overlapping with the next.

With so many stars and an ambitious story, does the Netflix movie deliver on the same scale as such artistic hits like Roma or The Irishman?

Here is our The Devil All The Time review and whether it’s worth a stream.

The Devil All The Time review

Trying to explain the story of The Devil All The Time can be complicated because there are so many layers to unravel.

But at the center of this harrowing tale is Arvin Russell (Tom Holland) a teen stuck inside a town full of sinners trying to disguise themselves as saints.

Outside of the nucleus of Arvin is a web of tormented and vile characters.

There’s a preacher named Preston Teagardin (Robert Pattinson) who is not as he seems. There is a police chief Lee Bodecker (Sebastian Stan) who has a flexible moral code within his own job.

And then there is Carl and Sandy Henderson (Jason Clarke and Riley Keough) who have the weirdest plot thread of all — but we’ll let the readers see that for themselves.

Director Antonio Campos — who previously made Christine as well as directed several episodes of The Sinner — took on an ambitious adaptation with this film and it’s quite noteworthy. It’s hard to juggle this many story-arcs and pay off all the threads satisfyingly.

Campos makes it look easy.

The movie also has a backstory that builds into the main story — spanning from post World War II to the edge of Vietnam — involving Arvin’s father Willard Russell (Bill Skarsgard), a man tormented by grief and his days in the war.

Similar to films such as The Place Beyond the Pines, it shows how one generations’ shortcomings can have a direct impact on the next in tragic ways.

Bill Skarsgård as Willard Russell, Michael Banks Repeta as young Arvin Russell
Bill Skarsgård as Willard Russell, Michael Banks Repeta as young Arvin Russell. Pic credit: Glen Wilson/Netflix

For general audiences, The Devil All the Time will not be an easy digest. In fact, it may cause some heartburn by the time the credits roll.

The film has an underlying cruelty as well as a theme on religion that will turn some away. The story has a lot on its mind about blind spots society has with religious leaders and the consequences of these blind spots.

This is demonstrated with great effect through the performance of Robert Pattinson’s role which is another homerun for the actor.

Unlike many of his previous performances, this is by far his most unforgiving role yet showing that wearing a Pastor’s badge does not equal pastor-like behavior.

Moreso, there’s a message here on the extremities people will go to in order to defend their faith, some even to the point where morality is compromised and leads to sin all in the search for answers.

Some of this can be seen as timely. Some people are willing to accept cruelties and forego empathy in pursuit of one religious goal. It’s especially prevalent in politics today.

Tom Holland as Arvin Russell
Tom Holland as Arvin Russell. Pic credit: Glen Wilson/Netflix

Not to mention all the surrounding characters around Arvin are wolves in sheep’s clothing. They all have the appearance of good intentions but at their core, they do not.

Arvin remains the outlier among these sinners. His life may have hardened his heart as well as challenged his faith, but even as he bends his own morality, deep down it’s with good intention.

And given his past, it’s the only way he knows how to survive.

When The Devil All the Time drops on Netflix next week the discussion will probably be around the ghoulish character brought to life by Pattinson. But it’s important to acknowledge the growth Tom Holland makes as an actor here.

The Devil All the Time cements Holland as a serious performer. He’s no longer the ADD smart-ass kid in a Spidey costume. This is the equivalent of Shia Labeouf breaking out of his Transformer toy box.

Watching this young actor show his range is exciting to witness.

Overall Thoughts

The Devil All the Time is a well-made film, but not an easy pill to swallow. This is going to be one of those movies general audiences either love or hate because of the aggressively cruel character depictions.

But for a movie that has so many undertones about religious cruelty, it’s absolutely needed.

The Devil All the Time has a lot to unpack here with its exploration of false idols and evil costumed as innocence. And it’s a better movie for it regardless of how much it makes one flinch.

Between the fantastic performances — especially from Tom Holland — and the compelling slow-burn narrative, The Devil All the Time is essential viewing.

Be sure and check out other movie reviews from Monsters & Critics such as Tenet and The Personal History of David Copperfield.

The Devil All the Time will be available on Netflix starting September 16.

John Dotson is a film and television reviewer and commentator from Texas. His favorite part of what he does is getting to discuss film and... read more
John Dotson

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