Josh Barton’s review published on Letterboxd:
Everyone ends up in the same damned place.
So there's this new film on Netflix where Spider-Man, Batman and the Winter Soldier make up only a few of the oddball characters in the bleak and unforgiving crime thriller, The Devil All the Time, from Antonio Campos. Now, I'm going to stop right there and tell you that is a ridiculous way to approach this film yet it seems some just aren't ready to relate the actors in this film to anything other than the superhero films they've either already graced or about to. The three respective actors are only a small part of an ensemble cast that may just be the most imipressive of the year.
Arvin Russell (Tom Holland) is a young man devoted to protecting the ones he loves in a postwar backwoods town in Ohio but when a number of sinister characters converge around him, he faces a true test against corruption and brutality.
Our lives can be shaped by a number of varying aspects at such a young age, whether it be through how we are raised by our parents or what we see in the outside world. Amidst the backdrop of a small backwoods town in postwar America, The Devil All the Time is set when both family and religion had a major imprint on people, Arvin Russell in particular being exposed to a childhood of violence carried out by his father on others.
Antonio Campos' film is quite an experience, taking time to settle into its surroundings and many characters but it warrants being a bit of a slow burner with a neatly woven narrative that doesn't shy away from violence, catching me off guard a few times throughout. It's an important part of the narrative though as Arvin struggles with finding a path in life that doesn't lead down the same route his father's took.
Campos has quite a cast at his disposal and he really does get the best out of the film's major players, Tom Holland giving one his finest performances to date in the lead role that showcases a real sense of vulnerability amidst the responsibility to protect those he loves. Robert Pattinson is the scene stealer of the film as a rather unholy preacher that once again proves how electrifying a performer he really is. It's a film made up of many characters that we don't particularly spend a lot of time with but it's testament to Campos as director that he can get such good performances from his cast no matter how minor their role.
The Devil All the Time is a meandering crime thriler that will hold you in a vice-like grip for large parts of its runtime before releasing with quiet but unflinching moments of brutality. It's most definitely one of the best films of the year.