Despite Great Cast, The Devil Is In the Details

by Graham Skinker ’21

“The Devil All the Time,” the new Netflix film starring Tom Holland, Bill Skarsgard, Robert Pattinson, Jason Clarke and Sebastian Stan and directed by Antonio Campos, takes place in two small towns of Virginia and Ohio in the aftermath of World War Two. Arvin Russell (Tom Holland), the son of Willard Russell (Bill Skarsgard), follows in his father’s footsteps and is determined to protect the ones he loves amid a small town teeming with sinister characters. The first two acts of the movie are very slow moving and drag along without much excitement; however, the final act really ramps up and pulls viewers in. Still, Campos overall fails to take full advantage of his incredible cast.

The movie follows multiple storylines beginning with Arvin as a child and how his parents got together. It then transitions to Arvin as a young adult, exacting revenge on those who have hurt him and his loved ones. At the same time, the storyline follows Carl (Jason Clarke) and his wife Sandy (Riley Keough) along their killing spree throughout the region of appalachia. All the while Deputy Bodecker (Sebastian Stan) is dealing with corruption and crime throughout the area. Campos as the director, however, fails rather spectacularly in attempting to bring these different storylines to a satisfying conclusion. The different storylines and jumps between multiple time periods feel very jumbled and it doesn’t seem like any of them were really developed to their full potential. This detracts a lot from the ending of the movie because the convergence of the storylines isn’t as dramatic as it could have been. Campos also fails to fully develop his characters. He really only portrays the dark and sinister sides of his characters without giving them much depth or development throughout the film.

Though Campos failed to craft compelling characters, the actors manage to bring the evil sides of their characters to life spectacularly. Skarsgard’s portrayal of a World War Two veteran struggling to readjust to everyday life again is simply fantastic to watch. Skarsgard really takes to the role of the backwoods, battle-hardened veteran well and at the same time is able to portray Willard’s pain as his wife battles severe illness. Holland and Pattinson also deliver incredible performances. Arvin is deeply motivated to protect the ones he loves at whatever cost. This was a big step for Holland in becoming a more established and well rounded actor as his only big hit so far in his career has been playing Peter Parker in Marvel’s Spiderman franchise. Pattinson portrays the Preacher at the church in Arvin’s home town. The former “Twilight” star plays the two-faced preacher amazingly. Pattinson’s character helps bring to light the almost cult-like qualities of organized religion in the mid twentieth century. He expounds one thing to audiences on Sunday mornings and throughout the movie the audience watches him doing almost the complete opposite of the things he preaches.

“The Devil All the Time” is worth a watch, especially if you have a real appreciation for great acting, but the jumbled storylines and lack of character depth and development throughout fail to take advantage of the incredible cast. 

Grade: C+