Apostle is a Netflix Original film set in 1905 that follows a man, Thomas (Dan Stevens), who tries to save his sister from a hostage situation by infiltrating the cult that took her. Upon reaching the isolated island, a game of cat and mouse begins between Thomas and the cult leader, Prophet Malcolm (Michael Sheen).
Often touted as a Wicker Man-esque tale, I found this movie to be far superior with its great cast, engrossing writing, and rewarding story. It does have some similarities with its general synopsis, pacing, and foreboding personalities, but it takes everything further...in a good way.
There are portions throughout that remind me of various other films, but less-so that it feels like ripping off and more-so in a way that reminds me I watch too many movies. I would argue that the initial synopsis is oddly familiar to the Wicker Man in structure, but most similarities go out the window less than midway through.
It had moments that reminded me of everything from Gangs of New York (of all things) to Colonia, but with a dark fantasy twist that reminded me of some subtle, gruesome mutation of a Guillermo del Toro muse. The characters evolve with the plot to become so intriguing, that I found myself immersed in their resolutions. I went from trying to predict the ending to just wanting to allow my mind to fall blindly into the story and letting it lead me down its dark path.
Almost every character is its own separate onion, each having their layers peeled as the movie plays out. It never feels convoluted or pointless, with each feeding off of each other as subplots collide with the primary plot. The counter-intuitive nature of it makes for a side effect of a dry and dragging first quarter as all settings and characters are thinly established.
Dan Stevens does a fantastic job, showing the breadth of his acting skills from his performance in The Guest to this near-180 change in character. With Michael Sheen, there was no doubt. He's always been a cornerstone in any film he's been in, and it's no different here. Director Gareth Edwards perhaps deserves the most kudos for his expansive range from the highly-acclaimed action romp The Raid to this. It's fun to catch those couple of moments when Edwards' action choreography eye comes to the surface, but with characters that aren't martial arts experts.
Visually striking, grotesquely dramatic, it's a great piece of filmmaking. I'm starting to trust Netflix more and more after a fairly disastrous start in in-house cinema.