By Mark Saldana
Rating: 3 (Out of 4 Stars)
From Gareth Evans, the acclaimed director behind The Raid: Redemption and The Raid 2, comes a film which shows a different side of Evans’s talents. Apostle may not be the insane action fests that his Raid films are, but it certainly displays his gifts for striking visuals, surprising his audiences, and for 100% grade A gore. Evans and his casting director Louise Cross have also assembled an outstanding cast of talents that make Apostle totally watchable and striking despite its weaknesses.
Dan Stevens stars as Thomas Richardson, a man once estranged from his family, but compelled to reconnect after the kidnapping of his sister Jennifer (Elen Rhys) by a religious cult. It is the year 1905 and Richardson agrees to take the arduous journeys to rescue his beloved sister from her captors. He manages to infiltrate the cult who has built a commune on the island of Erisden. Though the hard-working community initially seems harmless, there are definite signs of nefarious dealings and bizarre rituals. In all honestly, nothing can prepare young Richardson from the insane truth behind this violent cult headed by the charming, but suspicious leader, Prophet Malcom (Michael Sheen).
Written and directed by Evans, Apostle mostly works well until some of the bizarre reveals are made. In fact, though Evans does offer some on-point commentaries about the lust and greed of humanity, I feel his messages get overshadowed by the outlandishness that he employs to shock and awe his audience. I honestly don’t feel like most of it makes much sense, and it is definitely a spectacle to behold, but I feel that less could have offered so much more in terms of storytelling.
As I stated above, the entire cast delivers great work with Stevens and Sheen being the real standouts. Sheen, for sure, often steals the show as the seemingly charismatic, but untrustworthy Prophet Malcom. Malcm closely guards his secrets and the secrets of the island, and effectively uses fear to maintain his control and power. Stevens shines as Thomas Richardson, the troubled and ill prodigal son who returns for the sake of his sister. When his character gets pushed too far, Stevens goes fierce and feral like a lion forced to attack. The rest of the supporting cast all deliver solid work as well.
Though I liked this film overall, I feel it is my least favorite film by Gareth Evans so far. Still, I think it is definitely worth a watch for its solid direction and great acting. Apostle is scheduled for a Netflix release on October 12, but if given the chance, I would recommend watching it theatrically. The beautiful cinematography by Matt Flannery deserves to be experienced on a massive screen.