Gareth Evans, who garnered praise for his ambitious and tight-fisted The Raid: Redemption and The Raid 2, makes a surprising and deliriously successful left hand turn with his Apostle, a thriller which serves up a gumbo pot of influences yet thankfully serves up a unique flavor of its own.
It’s 1905, and Dan Stevens (Legion) is Thomas Richardson, the proverbial black sheep of a wealthy family who’s tasked with finding his kidnapped sister. His journey leads him to the remote island of Erisden, a small community led by a charismatic prophet named Malcolm (Michael Sheen). Residents of Erisden must leave worldly belongings behind and start anew, and Thomas wonders why a glass jar is one of the only items that each newbie can keep on their person (don’t worry, those jars will be filled soon enough!).
Evans devotes the first half of his 130 minute narrative building the world of Erisden, and buoyed by a refreshingly unnerving score from Aria Prayogi and Fajar Yuskemai, the story retains its fever pitch level of tension through its final moments.
Stevens effectively plays the intense, brooding, and occasionally drugged out protagonist, and though Richardson comes off as a bit of a shifty eyed loser upon first impression, there’s definitely a method to his madness.
Speaking of madness, Evans, who also wrote and edited this ambitious story, brings a subplot that may seem extraneous within the storyline, and there are moments when some viewers may feel Apostle’s tale may be too rich for its own good. Whether it’s dealing with the mythology behind Erisden or exploring different ways to turn our stomachs (torture is definitely on the menu), Evans simply doesn’t hold back, and there will be many movie fans who’ll simply dig this movie for this overabundance of cinematic madness.
Apostle also excels as a thriller, and there’s one memorable sequence involving Richardson, as he gradually discovers what in the heck is going on, that’s absolutely terrifying. Evans’ eye for composition continues to shine with Apostle, as he and director of photography Matt Flannery have creating an immersive world that’s teeming with unrelenting violence. Along with Sheen and Stevens, Bill Milner (memorable in The Lodgers), also does excellent work as a wide eyed youth who takes a shine to Richardson (Lucy Boynton of Sing Street fame also stars Malcolm’s daughter).
To give away any huge plot details for Apostle would be a disservice, as the film’s biggest thrills (at least if you’re not a gore fan), likes in a couple of eye opening reveals. I was expecting a bloated, misshapen tale before I started watching Apostle, but thankfully looks are often deceiving. Another awesome and inspired outing from Gareth Evans, Apostle may be a bit too much for some, but I’m always up for a a little brunch, even if it’s a one way ticket to Erisden.
Apostle debuts on Netflix October 12.