Since Gareth Evans made his impact on the cinematic landscape with his hard-hitting action-packed Indonesian martial arts movie The Raid and its sequel, fans of his directing style have been eager to see where he would turn to next.
And here it is with Apostle, an equally gritty film that cuts to the heart of religion, faith, and megalomania.
Starting Dan Stevens ego has been carving a name for himself in Hollywood circles of late with his quirky turn in TV series, Legion and Beauty and the Beast, but it seems that he has never shied away from his horror roots, dating back to Adam Wingard’s The Guest. It’s almost as if he is able to tap into that inner carnage and turmoil that humanity faces and bring it to the surface in the most powerful ways.
Apostle is no exception to this as Stevens delves deep into the psyche of Thomas Richardson, a former missionary who has turned his back on his faith, only to be tested once more when he learns that his sister has been taken for ransom on a remote welsh island.
The film is set in the early 1900s, and because of its setting is able to harness the feel of old school British folk horror which is on something of a resurgence of late.
There are elements in Apostle that is strikingly familiar to The Wicker Man in that a devout religious man ascends on a pagan island to retrieve a missing girl, in this case his sister, but that’s where the similarities cease as Apostle delves into the dark and twisted underbelly of when faith is taking to the extreme and abused at every level.
In one scene, Thomas literally has to swim through the guts and bile of the depraved to seek a reprieve from his pursuers.
There’s so much imagery and metaphor going on here, you’d be forgiven for feeling over whelmed with it, but Stevens performance is enough to ground the drama in reality.
He’s also joined by some terrific performers along the way too. There’s Michael Sheen (Underworld: Rise of the Lycans) as the islands profit, Malcolm, who is simply marvellous in his role, eating up the scenery with his charisma on screen; and then there’s Lucy Boynton (The Blackcoats Daughter) as the prophets’ daughter and potential love interest Andrea, along with Mark Lewis Jones and Bill Milner also adding great strength to the cast.
Richardson’s quest is always balanced on a knife edge too as Evans proves once more to be capable of wringing out every last drop of tension and pain from his characters.
Director Gareth Evans is a master in creating heart-wrenching angst and turmoil into his narrative and with Dan Stevens has the perfect muse, as a lost and troubled man on a quest that takes him into a dark and twisted labyrinth of angst and suffering to reach a place of peace and tranquility.
Apostle is available to watch now on Netflix.
- Saul Muerte