Movie Review: APOSTLE - A Brutal, Harsh Movie

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Movie Review: APOSTLE - Photo credit:, Edition by Amber255 via

Each new creation by director Gareth Evans, I wait and do not miss by. He immediately established himself as a very intelligent director. And every his film is if not a masterpiece in its genre, then very good work. This also applies to the  APOSTLE creation. This film is also in the IMDb list of 50 best movies of 2018. I watched this film on Netflix, but some time ago and still had no chance to write a review. So, here is what I think about horror drama APOSTLE

By the will of the fate the Welsh director Gareth Evans, once came to Jakarta, where he made an amazing career: The Raid: Redemption and its sequel became real hits. But it turns out that he didn't forget the gloomy, foggy British nature under the pleasant Indonesian sun: Evans became one of the directors in the V/H/S/2 horror almanac in the segment of the ominous cult.

Twisted, bizarre and full of gratifying gore, this movie is bliss to all horror fans. Added to all that, it carries a powerful message. With a pointing production design and a straight forward direction, the movie takes you into the downward spiral of corrupted faith and malignant humanity.

Apparently, this topic Gareth Evans liked, and he was able to develop it to the concepts of gothic horror. The director his own brand in the form of fists fights exchanged to the mind games and black masses, presenting an interesting and original project. The mood of the tape, perhaps, refers to this classic or in general to some Victorian era, but its spirit remains in the suffering middle ages: with elaborate costumes, eerie rituals, and liters of blood.

This is what I wanted to get from the new project - the atmosphere and frankness of the horror in the decisions of the action movie. And who, if not Gareth Evans, could give us this? But we got criminally little of both. 

APOSTLE, Official Trailer from Netflix - Video credit: 

The Short Story Of The Movie 

The action takes place at the beginning of the 20th century on the fictional island on the coast of Wales. On this scanty land is a sect led by the false prophet father Malcolm. His flocks are beggars, hermits, ex-prisoners. 

 They are so devoted to their spiritual leader that they are ready to cut their veins if he asked them, pouring the blood into the jars. Obviously, the ritual has some meaning, and probably this is the case when faith in something, even in something bad, is justified.

The main character Thomas (Dan Stevens) believes neither in pagan nonsense nor in God in general: he became a tough atheist after a traumatic experience. Like many heroes of the last century, this city dweller, unprepared for meeting with the wrong side of the world, goes to the island to save his sister Jennifer Richardson (Elen Rhys), abducted by the sect for ransom. She is kept on a remote island, where, apart from the occultists led by the prophet Malcolm (Michael Sheen), there is no one, and it is difficult to get there inconspicuously.


Michael Sheen and Dan Stevens in the film about religious sect APOSTLE - Photo credit:

But her brother Thomas does not stop it - he finds a way to get into the enemy’s territory to find his sister.

A bad harvest, mysterious secrets, and disagreements among the old sectarians, the love line of young people, all this leads to a culmination in the finale, where violence, hatred, and fear are manifested.

The Content Of The Movie 

The plot is simple, even rather secondary, but at the same time, you are trying to catch up with something yourself, looking for some essence between the lines in the script. There is the theme of religion, worship, fanaticism, and the search for a loved one. The film is not crowded with bright events, but it is tough, which does not give a reason to get bored. There are blood and murders; there are elements of a detective and mysticism.

In the APOSTLE, a religious cult more resembles a kind of radical or extreme Christianity, with its churches, priests and the Inquisition, but with the worship of a goddess and not a god. And this is precisely what causes the greatest skepticism. For it is almost impossible to imagine a sect like patriarchal Christianity with the worship of a goddess, and it seems just absurd.


50 best movies of 2018: APOSTLE - Photo credit:

And one of the main ideas of the film is the imprisonment of God (in this case, the goddess) by people for their own needs. The theme is not new to the cinema. The goddess is inextricably linked with the island; she is its heart. One of the characters says that she is not a god but simply a machine that gives birth all the time. Perhaps this phrase is one of the "keys" to understanding the film. After all, if you try to start from the symbol of the fertile goddess and the phrase about the machine, the goddess can mean Mother Nature. It seems that one of the philosophers also called nature a machine, because of its mechanistic repetition, cyclicality. It turns out that one of the main ideas of the film is an attempt to conquer and imprison Nature, and that will not pass painlessly either for people or for nature itself.

In many ways, the APOSTLE enters the zone of not very necessary narrative turns. In other words, they added to the script, both a few not the most important characters (the young parishioner, his beloved, etc.), as well as highly unpredictable plot turns.

The project is filled with indescribable acts of torture and violence: this may have occurred in the same The Raid but in a more combat form. Such extreme film content probably should lead to something. Soon enough, the viewer will be on the same level as Thomas: his state of constant tension from the surrounding violence will also be transmitted to the viewer. 


Film APOSTLE review - Photo credit:

Director Gareth Evans could not resist adding a couple of action scenes into the film - it turned out effectively and quickly reminds of the director's skill, realized in two films The Raid. The picture could turn out being much more powerful, focusing more on a thriller or even a drama, the director might have acquired the uniqueness that his film lacks so much.

As a result, we got a beautiful, good, tense film with an interesting plot and original mysticism, where we can guess the Evans' hand only in some places. The author of such a film could be any good director, from Evans there are more author's shortcomings than merits.

The minus - a very long story; the film goes 2 hours and 10 minutes. But if it does not frighten you, do not be confused by the roughness of the picture, then you can safely watch it.


Netflix films APOSTAL - Photo credit:

The Personages Of The Movie 

First of all, nobody behaves illogical, and it is surprising in a film from the genre of horrors. Why do I say this? It's because I have seen a lot of films of this genre and can name films where logic is lost. The film is not emptiness, and the characters are worked out, and their behavior entice. You sympathize with the heroes (not everyone!). Sometimes my heart beat faster, and this is already a plus.

The main character goes in search of his sister, for this, he goes to the island and enters the community, where she is held captive for ransom. Thomas’ study of the island consists of a couple of nightly raids; the hero is not super-strong but resourceful and adequately assesses his capabilities on an inhospitable island.  

The hero explores the settlement of the community to understand what is happening because he is not very aware of what they do, how they live, and so on. Community leaders know that an unwelcome guest is present on the island, and they are trying to find him, so our hero needs to be doubly careful. And this is not counting those terrible secrets that hide the top of the cult.


Dan Stevens in APOSTLE - Photo credit: 

Richardson faces not only the human manifestation of the cult but also its very essence. The APOSTLE shows a complete picture of pagan belief: from the meaning of sacrifices to the interaction of people with a deity. In addition to the pagan worship in the film, there is the Christian religion. The challenges and hardships that Christian missionaries had to endure were transiently shown.

Evans feels the problems of the created world, building tension on these very domestic moments, first showing the problem, and only after a couple of minutes making the solution. Another director, I suppose, would have made Thomas respond immediately, making him either a cunning fox, conquered confidence by the father Malcolm or a cheerful fighter shooting from the pistols with two hands.


Horror drama APOSTLE - Photo credit:

 The Technical Side Of The Movie 

APOSTLE is created with incredible care when it comes to recreating the scenery and costumes. Of course, one should not expect full immersion into the world, but the atmosphere in the film is beautiful. The film is dark in its colors and harsh visually; the mystical parallels of the story add their part to the overall atmosphere.

Technically, the film was shot well, but without any special visual findings. Visualization - beautiful picture, very high-quality work, to the smallest detail. Attributes, decorations, immersion in what is happening shown greatly. We are in a crazy place with the hero, and how this part of the madness is displayed is truly brilliant. I like this atmosphere, mysteriously, mystically, sometimes terribly. Quite a lot of dark shades that go with the entire movie and cause a feeling of anxiety.


Michael Sheen in a horror drama APOSTLE - Photo credit:

It was the feeling of confined space, powerlessness, fear that haunted me. But the picture also has a lot of cruelty, natural scenes with blood and tearing off body parts. Therefore, especially sensitive viewers, please do not look.

The music is well filed. If you divide the movie into two parts, then in the first it is unobtrusive, not memorable. But in the second, it is alarming music increasing tension that deserves attention. And together with a tense atmosphere, it looks frightening.

Thanks to the quality of make-up and special effects, the action scene looks realistic and scary.

Director Gareth Evans Talks About His Film APOSTLE - Video credit:

 The Collective Work Of The Actors

The first that I want to praise is the actors. Solid cast, where every actor is in his place. The main character in the performance of Dan Stevenson looks convincing. His past, motives, the wish to find his sister, everything is spelled out as it should. He quite naturally got used to the image and showed a good hero who you empathize with and mentally wish him success.

But with all due respect to the main character, the types of antagonists turned out to be better, which perfectly revealed their types and simply forced to hate them.

There are no complaints about the works of Dan Stevens and Michael Sheen but are to Mark Lewis Jones. There was a feeling that he was overplaying a little, portraying a completely inadequate madness.

Lucy Boynton, who played ta character Andrea, stood out too much in a background of all the inhabitants of the community. Is a good-looking girl to be considered a film's flaw? This is another question.

Excellent caste and good implementation did their job. The production is not inferior to high-budget films for large screens, although television approaches still lurk. 


Movie Review: APOSTLE - Photo credit:

On the Final Note

This is a brutal and atmospheric horror film with a beautiful picture, a good acting game, beautiful but rare action, and medium scenario which conceptually had much greater potential.

The film highlights his specific visual solution; Evans’s highly adrenaline direction does not allow the APOSTLE to become another stupid horror film about cults and terrible green forests. The camera does not stop here for a second, and even the most tranquil scenes exude insane energy.

АPOSTLE is a very different look of director Gareth Evans which many fans of the director, probably, were waiting for, and to a greater degree, the test was passed. The film certainly has a different vision on history, and even if it is more predictable in terms of its genre, Evans tried to emphasize his individualism stylistically.

The movie turned out beautiful, creepy, cruel, and even in some places insane, but at the same time predictable and noticeably prolonged. There are enough scenes in the film that could be easily cut without prejudice to the plot.


Horror drama APOSTLE - Photo credit:

Unfortunately, the problem with the interpretation of some events is added to predictability and prolonging. The impressive duration did not help with the explanations of what was happening. Some questions remained unanswered, a part of the community’s life was not disclosed, and the finale caused strange emotions. Evans slightly overloaded the script with unnecessary riddles, which creates certain problems for the holistic perception of the picture

Imagine that you are still living in a community where rules you are not satisfied with being dictated to you. It is impossible to run away. Religion rules the world, but what if it absorbs you? Human defects are shown more than needed. And the combination of how a person behaves in such a place and асts by what he believes in is terrible in reality. Because what is happening - this is absorbing madness in its purest form.

It is not the worst attempt of the director of The Raids to try himself in a different direction, but I want to believe that his best work is still to come.

A Gothic horror mystery that's less like an adrenaline shot to the heart than a rusty, hand-cranked drill to the skull.


My rating: 7.0/10
Rotten Tomatoes: 78/100
Metacritic: 6.6/100
Critics average: 5.5/10
IMDb: 6.2/10




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