A sensitive cultural ethnography of the exotic, much-maligned world of Southern Pentecostalism; a complex study of a character whose many contradictions startlingly combine sacred and profane dimensions; a spiritual exploration of the inscrutable workings of guilt and grace: The Apostle—long labored over by writer, director, producer, and star Robert Duvall—is all of these.
Duvall's film contemplates the trajectory of Eulis "Sonny" Dewey, a charismatic holiness preacher from rural Texas whose utter confidence in Jesus is unshaken by his proneness to womanizing, domineering behavior and anger—until mounting crises and a shocking act of violence set his life spinning out of control. On the run in the backwoods of Louisiana, Sonny makes an extraordinary overture for redemption, taking on a new identity and devoting himself almost recklessly to the work of God.
Duvall persuasively brings Sonny's contradictory elements together to create a convincingly realized portrait of a man with whom we cannot quite sympathize nor quite condemn, a man who wrestles with God with the emotion and frankness of a Job, yet without Job's righteousness. To humanize and indeed to locate the hand of grace in this unpromising figure and his unfashionable world is an act of faith and art worthy of Flannery O'Connor. The documentary-like tone is aided by a non-professional supporting actors cast from the culture depicted onscreen.