Written and directed by Antonio Campos, The Devil All the Time follows a young man dedicated to protecting his family in a town full of sinister characters and corruption.
The Devil All the Time is a spectacular example of how to make a plot with a large number of characters work in a way where each individual narrative is engaging, easy to follow and plays into the core story in a strong, meaningful way. The film does have a central character in Tom Holland’s Arvin Russell, however, it weaves between a number of different narratives that intersect in creative ways, forging this example of brilliant storytelling. It all runs at a very slow pace, one that may drive some people to become disinterested in the narrative. However, I feel it is perfectly calculated in how it allows time for certain plot elements to sink in and for the very ominous tone to continue building across the different narratives. The approach feels very on par with 2013’s Prisoners. Not in terms of the story, rather in how it uses the slower pace as a way of building up the darker tone and keeping the suspense going right through to the end.
The story is just fantastic. The first act is great in how it introduces all of the characters and sets things up in a way that has you wanting to know more about every single one. From there it only builds in tension as the corruption and evil figures that surround these small towns become more active in the story and enhance that darker tone. The jumping back and forth between different character arcs is done brilliantly to where the subtle connections between them all make this feel like one singular narrative. This interconnectedness really shows the level of detail that has gone into making it work. It’s consistently gripping the entire way through and never really drops into a dull patch as there is always something chilling about what is going on.
This film is littered with stellar performances across every single arc which really helps with the engagement factor of each arc. Tom Holland definitely leads the film with a passionate performance that has you forgetting everything about the fact that he’s Spider-Man. It’s a brutal story and Holland really sells the mental and physical brutality of everything his character is experiencing and how taxing that is. It’s a brilliant lead performance that is great as the central point of all these moving parts.
Next up I need to mention Bill Skarsgard whose performance is absolutely chilling and expertly sets the tone for the entire film. I could say this about every performance in here, but he really does disappear into the role, delving into some pretty dark places to sell the hauntingly emotional story of his character. Robert Pattinson is another who has recently been delivering star performances in everything he appears in – and this is no different. He is terrifying in this film, terrifyingly good. He doesn’t have a tonne of screen time but when he’s on, he’s fantastic. Jason Clarke, Sebastian Stan and Harry Melling also all deliver strong supporting performances that complement the lead performances in interesting ways… sometimes without even sharing a scene.
Let’s not forget the performances from Haley Bennett, Mia Wasikowska, Riley Keough and Eliza Scanlen who don’t necessarily drive the story but are crucial to enhancing the sense of dread that is looming over the entire film. The focus of the film is ‘evil’, and these performances are moreso the subjects of said evil. So, where they may not necessarily be at the forefront, they are important for the overall message of the film.
In the end, The Devil All the Time is a brilliantly crafted crime thriller that takes its time really delving deeper and deeper into darkness while crafting multiple stories simultaneously. The weaving between different arcs that interact in creative ways is fantastically executed. There is no shortage of incredible performances in here with everyone showing up and disappearing into their characters, especially Tom Holland who carries the majority of the film with a spectacular performance. It’s a consistently great film with no real negative points that stood out.