★★★★ out of ★★★★★
There’s a bible in every room and a purification machine in town square in the Netflix original feature, Apostle.
Directed by Gareth Evans
Apostle, written and directed by Gareth Evans, is the story of Thomas Richardson (Dan Stephens) who journeys to a remote island to rescue his sister Jennifer who is being held for ransom by a religious cult. Thomas is a little worse for wear- he’s a drug addicted former religious leader who was thought dead by his family- and honestly, when we first meet him he doesn’t look far from it. He’s been chosen because the cult won’t expect a young man coming to their island, but Jennifer’s elderly father.
As he readies to board the ferry to Erisden, Thomas notices that his ticket has a mark not present on any of the other passenger’s and realizing that it must surely be to mark him as the carrier of the ransom money, slyly swaps tickets with another passenger. Upon arrival his suspicions are confirmed as the passenger who now holds the marked ticket is privately escorted from the boat.
When Thomas and the other passengers arrive at the village after a hike up the cliff side, they are lined up to check in- it’s kind of like Ellis Island only instead of the promise of the American dream you have to swear to pledge every drop of blood to “milady” and are given a receptacle to hold said blood.
After check in, it’s time for church! Thomas, along with everyone else in Erisden gathers in the chapel to hear Prophet Malcolm (played expertly by Michael Sheen) preach. We learn how the cult was started (Malcolm and his two “brothers” came upon the island after fleeing the mainland accused of treason) and that they worship a goddess who has chosen Malcolm to speak through. But the harvests have been failing and farm animals are giving birth to babies with deformities so why is the goddess forsaking them and how does the group continue to satisfy her?
As if those troubles weren’t enough, Malcolm and the leaders discover that they’ve got the wrong guy when trying to extract the ransom money from the old man from the boat so they mount a search for the impostor on the island. Last but not least there’s Jeremy and Ffion, two crazy in love teens who just want to be together but have to hide it from the rest of the cult. What could go wrong there? (Spoiler alert, a lot!) And where does that trap door in Prophet Malcolm’s room go? And why the “call to quarters” curfew? And OMG, the purification machine!
From the moment Thomas arrives in Erisden, Evans’ tale goes full throttle and never lets up. Is this film a comment on faith lost and regained? Is it about the penalties when man tries to use god for personal gains? Is this just a super nasty homage to The Wicker Man? I don’t know! What I do know is that Apostle is a bloody, horrific, expertly crafted and well-acted film that is impossible to look away from and that I loved every minute.
Apostle merits an R rating for lots of violence and is available to stream for free with a Netflix subscription.