Apostle (2018) – Gareth Evans

There’s a lot to unpack in Gareth Evans’ film, Apostle, there are concepts of religious tenets, blood, sacrifice, family, worship, deification, and faith, all of it wrapped up in a character driven tale starring Dan Stevens and Michael Sheen. If you try to take it as the straightforward tale that the film’s plotline offers, you’re bound to be disappointed, as there is so much more going on than just that. There is mystery, horror, blood, and lots of exploration on the religious experience.

It’s 1905, and Thomas (Stevens), suffering, addicted to laudanum, sets out for a remote island off the English coast in order to find his sister, Jennifer (Elen Rhys) who has been kidnapped, and held for ransom by a religious cult led by Malcolm (Sheen). But that’s just the broad stokes.

He has to sneak aboard the island, where one can be invited only, masquerade as a member of the flock, and find a way to rescue his sister. But this introduces us to a number of characters, each with their arcs, motivations, history, and moment in the narrative. Each of which serves the ideas of exploring religion, faith (and loss thereof) and sacrifice, and most of it is drenched in blood.

But… There is something on the island, some power, a force of nature, referred to as Her (Sharon Morgan) who has been made into a deity by Malcolm and his followers, and who, until now, has given them good crops, and healthy living, but she’s faltering, perhaps due to her age, or the corruption of those who worship her.

Stevens and Sheen turn in solid performances, and to be honest, Sheen is one of my favorite actors, he’s one of those that I would watch in anything, he’s just so captivating. But there are great supporting stories, and characters surrounding them, and as the film races to its bloody climax (and wow there is a lot of it, as we see examples of religious torture, of various methods, to simple revenge) we learn more about Her, belief, and the redemptive action of faith and heart, as opposed to religion.

The fact that the story isn’t quite so straightforward, and wanders into supernatural territory, as well as other character stories, may discourage some viewers, but I enjoyed it, seeing all the perspectives being presented, and how those perspectives, actions, and characters are interpreted by those around them.

Is it a little more complex and dense than it needs to be, arguably so. It asks a lot of the viewer in terms of attention, and willingness to follow the story to some odd, and violent places. This isn’t something to put on in the back ground, this is something that you have to realize may challenge you, and may result in you not liking it.

But man Sheen is awesome!

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