Apostle review: A can’t miss cult thriller


Netflix’s Apostle is a slow-burning thriller that eventually boils over into a wildly violent – yet strangely philosophical – bloodbath.

This week’s original Netflix film offerings include Apostle, a film about a sinister religious cult situated on an island away from civilization. When Thomas Richardson’s (Dan Stevens) sister is kidnapped by said cult, he must embark on a dangerous mission to get her back, unaware of the insidious danger lurking in the wilds of Erisden.

Leading Erisden is the so-called “prophet”, Malcolm (Michael Sheen). It is the cult’s belief that they can be free of all war, strife, famine, and poverty inflicting the world outside of their remote island. All they have to do is ensure they remain pure and worthy to their island’s goddess and adhere to the strict principles dictated by the cult mandate.

What begins as a rather slow and typical story of a cult adhering to archaic means and customs becomes so much more than that by its final act. However, I do believe this movie is best viewed without knowing too much of what to expect, so I won’t reveal the course it takes, only that it is very much a film you must stick with until the very end.

I point out the ending because the first half of the film is near illusory in the stark differences between where it begins and where it concludes. I did find the first hour a little too slow for my taste but once I had seen the entirety of the film I began to understand its purpose and am appreciative of the time taken by the film’s director, Gareth Evans to build the foundation of Erisden and its pivotal characters.

Apostle – Courtesy of Netflix

Comparisons to The Wicker Man have been made and while I understand why, I think Apostle is wholly its own creation and it’s hard to compare it. If I had to liken it to an already existing film I would actually pick Silent Hill for reasons that will likely become clear after watching it.

My initial reaction to this movie was distaste for the way some of the women were treated but upon actually finishing out the film I think there is quite a bit of social commentary encoded in the story about the cyclical nature of humanity, religion, the suffocating violence of patriarchal based brutality, and the agency of women’s bodies. These themes are not exactly subtle but can be difficult to see amidst the gore fest that transpires in the latter half of the film.

From L to R: Dan Stevens as Thomas and Michael Sheen as Malcolm in Apostle (2018) – Courtesy of IMDb and Netflix

Apostle is a film meant to be digested slowly. It’s not one you can simply zoom through and forget about. It settles in your stomach and begs to be thought about, picked apart, and examined.

I only wish I could say more because there truly is so much content to dissect here but the twists and turns of this plot are ones that need to be experienced and not read about. Gareth has written a totally bonkers and deeply unsettling film and I can honestly say I haven’t seen a movie so confident and unabashed in its own skin, no matter how uncomfortable it may make its audience, since 2017’s Mother!

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Other reasons to check out Apostle: Michael Sheen and Dan Stevens are at their best. Stevens, in particular, taps a vein into the film’s madness and channels it into one of his best performances to date. The soundtrack is also superb. I’ve never had drumbeats make me feel so uneasy before.

Apostle is currently streaming on Netflix.

Have you seen Apostle? What did you think? Feel free to share your opinions in the comments section below.