The Apostle
Rating -

 Drama (US); 1997; Rated PG-13; 148 Minutes

Robert Duvall: Sonny Dewey - Apostle E.F.
Farrah Fawcett: Jessie Dewey
Miranda Richardson: Tootsie
Todd Allen: Horace
John Beasley: Brother Blackwell
June Carter Cash: Mrs. Dewey Sr.
Walt Goggins: Sam
Billy Joe Sharver: Joe
Billy Bob Thornton: The Troublemaker

Produced by Steven Brown, Rob Carliner, Robert Duvall and Ed Johnson; Directed and screenwritten by Robert Duvall

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Written by DAVID KEYES

Many movies can take us to big cities. Not many can take us to precise locations and tell stories of precise people without enveloping them in typical plot routines.

"The Apostle," a film which Robert Duvall produced, wrote, directed and starred in, takes us to the deep south and into the life of Sonny Dewey in such a unique way that it's frightening. Sonny belongs to the church, works like the church, thinks like the church, and almost IS the church. His life is far from normal--it is one of the most original ever seen; a complex one built up of more than flesh and bone; an intense portrait of one who takes god into his heart and never lets him go; a glorious and complicated weave of human and spiritual emotions that transgress themselves in the tense moments of a human's lifetime. When he has problems, he goes to god, talks to him, and sometimes even screams at him. One wouldn't consider this a normal action, but for a preacher in the deep south, I wouldn't be so naive to think that this is unusual.

Believe it--the south knows more about religion, god, and all of its aspects probably more than anybody else nowadays. They appreciate every word written in the Bible and still consider it to be the supreme law of the land. The Bible was once the pinnacle of every human's beliefs, and the idol of everyone's knowledge. Few today have claimed it as the law of the land, since government and politics have named the earth a "land in need of human rule," as a friend of mine once put it. But if you look at the core, and into those who still take the Bible as their law of the land, you would find that most probably come from the south. Why? Perhaps its because in the south, where racism, sacrilege, and anarchy still mainly exists, God is the logical choice for everyone.

Those are thoughts that must be dealt with at "The Apostle," because every character, every person alive, takes in god as their number one source of life. The movie opens in 1939, which, coincidentally, was the year for movie masterpieces. The story takes place when Dewey, attending church outdoors in a tent, gives his soul and his honor to god after listening to the preaching of a sermon who rants and raves about hell and fire. This scene evokes passion and creativity in the character we meet, providing glimpses that one day, he, too, will belong to the church.

The next scene takes us to the present day, where Dewey is now a member of the church. He has a wife, two kids, an ill mother, and blindness to everyone except Jesus. All of his time and assets are devoted to his lord--it's almost as if that's all he cares about. His wife soon begins to break away from him, leaning towards a young preacher named Horace. His mother, in an early scene, collapses to the floor in a stroke, and instead of helping her, he places a blanket on her, tells her god will take care of her, and departs.

But then it gets worse. Sonny is then confronted with the possibility of losing his license to preach at the church. For some reason, people want him out of there, claiming that he doesn't have what it takes. At this point, Sonny, instead of handling the situation, goes to his room and rants and raves to the lord. His mother gets a phone call asking what is going on up in his room, and she replies "Sometimes he talks to the lord, and sometimes he yells at him."

The problems in his life persist until he takes them into his own hands, one time using a baseball bat to crush the skull of his wife's lover, then, believing that the devil has entered his heart, rushes out of town, faking suicide, and ready to start a new life. In a lake, he baptizes himself reborn as "Apostle E.F." and finds home in a town in Louisiana. There, the movie's script focuses on his attempts to win over the suspicious people of the town so that he, once and for all, can create a church of his own there, seeking redemption from his lord, which he feels he has dishonored by killing another. For those who have not seen the movie just yet, it is better to leave the rest of the picture's plot hidden here, as, in a way, the movie represents a creativity and passion that should not be spoiled for any movie fanatic.

Walking away from "The Apostle," I felt renewed.

1998, David Keyes, Please e-mail the author here if the above review contains any spelling or grammar mistakes.
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