Set in 1905, Apostle sees Dan Stevens play a drifter infiltrating a mysterious religious cult in search of his kidnapped sister.
Gareth Evans (who wrote, directed, and edited the picture) marries folk horror with gangster drama to mixed results.
As a period gangster picture, the film works. The cult leaders deliver menacing performances, and Stevens disappears into his role as an outsider confronting the mob. Evans’s kinetic-but-realistic style serves these elements well, delivering taut action dripping with manic testosterone. I also loved how authentic the film’s world felt, from the sets to the costumes to the sweaty, grimy performers themselves.
But Evans fumbles the story’s supernatural elements. Early on, we’re shown a menacing-looking barn with a strange figure silhouetted in its doorway. An excellent visual, full of ominous mystery and dread. But Evans reveals the barn’s secret at the halfway point, and the film never recovers.
Compounding this misstep, Evans applies the same kinetic-but-realistic visual style to the film’s supernatural elements. Rather than ground them in a gritty reality (as it does for the sets and performers), it only betrays the latex and makeup artifice.
It may sound as though I didn’t enjoy Apostle, but I did. I just wanted a bigger punch at the end. One Evans could have delivered.