Movie Review: Apostle

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Thomas Richardson (Dan Stevens) attempts to rescue his sister from the evil Malcolm (Michael Sheen) in Apostle, Gareth Evans’ first English-language film since 2006. (Source: IMDb)

Welsh director Gareth Evans made a big name for himself when he moved to Indonesia to direct The Raid: Redemption and The Raid 2. Starring Iko Uwais among other native actors, these martial arts films both opened to critical acclaim (except for Ebert, who panned the first film describing it as “a visualized video game that spares the audience the inconvenience of playing it”) and have gained a cult following. Now– he makes his first attempt into Victorian horror with Netflix original Apostle, which influence The Wicker Man, The Witch, Silence, and The Village. It’s just as unnerving as one would expect.

In the 1900s, ex-priest Thomas Richardson (Dan Stevens) travels to Erisden, a remote island off the Welsh coast, to save his sister Jennifer (Elen Rhys) from an evil religious cult, led by the prophet Malcolm (Michael Sheen). During his investigation, he learns about the island’s dark secrets from its residents, including Malcolm’s daughter Andrea (Lucy Boynton, Sing Street). Thomas must rescue his daughter before Malcolm puts him under his wing.

What fascinates me about this movie is the complex nature of the island and its residents. It questions the existence of God and whether He is poisoning the minds of its followers. In one of the most gut-wrenching scenes, Thomas discussed about a painful memory of getting a cross burnt into his back. “The promise of the divine is but an illusion,” he says. “Nothing in the world is pure. God is pain. God is suffering. God is betrayal.” Stevens’ performance as the charismatic Thomas with a violent side is one to cherish.

Evans gives his movie enough time to develop its characters; giving them a sense of dread. Sheen’s Malcolm will stop at nothing to execute his people who disrespect his religion, especially if someone fails to memorize his verses. They are punished by grisly torture devices. Those with a strong stomach will be on the edge of their seat during the brutal second act, accompanied by a suspenseful score by Fajar Yusekemal and Aria Prayogi. Matt Flannery’s cinematography captures the beauty and insanity of the island to perfection.

Apostle might be too complex at times, but it still manages to shock and captivate its viewers. While not for the faint-of-heart, this is a refreshing return to the English-language for Evans. It might be fair to watch it more than once.

3/4

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2016 Summer Movie Review: Sing Street

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Conor (Ferdia Walsh-Peelo) and his friends start a band in 1980s Dublin in John Carney’s Sing Street

John Carney is one of the most unique filmmakers of this century. Once is nothing short of a masterpiece; following two musicians from different countries who share each other’s love for music. They perform a song at a Dublin music store, and begin to form a friendship like no other. Begin Again, which takes place in New York City, is just as great, but doesn’t quite capture the same beauty of Once. Now, Carney returns to his native Ireland with Sing Street (it opened last weekend at Brunswick’s Eveningstar Cinema). This time, he goes back to the past.

The year is 1985. The Irish are emigrating to London to seek a new life. For 15-year-old Conor (Ferdia Walsh-Peelo), he is in a tough situation living in Dublin. His parents (Aiden Gillen and Maria Doyle Kennedy) are fighting all the time and dealing with financial problems. They transfer him to another school, which he is being treated like dirt by the student body and the priests.

Everything changes when he meets a beautiful girl named Raphina (Lucy Boynton). Inspired by watching a music video of “Rio” by Duran Duran with his brother-in-law Brendan (Jack Reynor) who has a massive vinyl record collection, Conor decides to start a band and agrees to have her appear in some music videos before finding a nearby gig (“Rock n’ Roll is a risk. You risk being ridiculed,” Brendan says). As sparks begin to fly between Conor and Raphina, they begin chasing their dreams.

Like John Carney’s previous two films, Sing Street throws every mainstream musical out of the water. He does such an astounding job bringing the 1980s culture to life. It has a huge heart, humor (some in a typical dark Irish sense), poignancy, a kick-ass soundtrack (which I bought after getting out of the movie), gorgeous cinematography, and awesome, amusing characters who are talented musicians. I guarantee this will leave a smile across your face.

Follow your dreams and get out of your troubles.

4/4