Unlike the usual Hollywood portrayal of ministers and Christians, watching The Apostle was a true spiritual experience.
Reviews by David Bruce, Mike Furches
& Amy Welborn

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The Apostle (1997)

This page was created in 1998
This page was last updated on June 13, 2005

Time Magazine says: "Divine Inspiration. Robert Duvall's The Apostle tops a dynamic career.God--and Oscar--may be on his side."

Roger Ebert says: "Sonny is different from most movie preachers. He's not a fraud, for one thing; Hollywood tilts toward the Elmer Gantry stereotype. Sonny has a one-on-one relationship with God."

Directed by Robert Duvall
Written by Robert Duvall

Todd Allen .... Horace Brother
Paul Bagget .... Tag Team Preacher #3
Lenore Banks .... Female Sonny Supporter
John Beasley .... Brother C. Charles
Lynette Braxton .... Mother Blackwell
Brett Brock .... Helper
Christopher Canady .... Sister Johnson's Twin
Christian Canady .... Sister Johnson's Twin
June Carter Cash .... Mrs. 'Momma' Dewey Sr.
Elizabeth Chisolm .... Singer Brother William
Atlas Cole .... Bayou Man
Reverend Frank Collins Jr. .... Soloist #4
Prophet Carl D. Cook .... Preacher
Naomi Craig .... Scripture Reader
Wayne Dehart .... Liquor Store Preacher
Rick Dial .... Elmo
Robert Duvall .... Euliss "Sonny" Dewey - The Apostle E.F.
Farrah Fawcett .... Jessie Dewey
Jan Fawcett .... Needy Receiver #2
James Ivey Gleason .... Young Priest
Walt Goggins .... Sam
Reverend Chili Graham .... Tag Team Preacher #5
Reverend Bobby Green .... Tag Team Preacher #1
Stuart Greer .... Texas State Trooper
John E. Hawkins .... Sonny Supporter #1
Hunter Hayes .... Child Accordionist
Reverend Daniel Hickman .... Flashback Preacher
Emery Hopkins .... Virgil
Brenda B. Jackson .... Faith Healer #2
Sister Jewell Jernigan .... Sister Jewell
Reverend Charles Johnson .... Tag Team Preacher #2
Julie Johnson (I) .... Baptism Soloist
Vera Kemp .... Faith Healer #1
Joseph Lindsey .... Soloist #1
Sharon K. London .... Church Woman
Zelma Loyd .... Sister Johnson
Fernie E. McMillan .... Doctor
Jimmie J. Meaux .... Church Member #2
L. Christian Mixon .... The Bodyguard
Richard Nance .... Church Man #2
Douglas Perry .... Louisiana State Trooper
Harold Potier Sr. .... Coronet George
Kevin O. Rankin .... Young Man in Car
Pat Ratliff .... Accident Witness
Miranda Richardson .... Toosie
Jay Robicheaux .... Sonny at 12 Years Old
Terrence Rosemore .... Man Saying Amen
Billy Joe Shaver .... Joe Joyce
Jolivet Starks .... Sister Delilah
Christina Stojanovich .... Jessie Jr.
Nicholas Stojanovich .... Bobbie
Ronnie Stutes .... Needy Receiver
Ruby Francis Terry .... Soloist Choir Director
Billy Bob Thornton .... Troublemaker
Graham Timbes .... Church Man #1
James B. Towry .... Nosey Neighbor
Reverend Jesse Walkrop .... Sonny Supporter #2
Renee Victor .... Latin Translator
Reverend Steve White .... Tag Team Teacher #4
Sister Fay Winn .... Tag Team Preacher #6
Melete Woods .... Soloist #3
Margaret Oliver Coleman .... Texas Choir Member
Sharon Denise Dickerson .... Texas Choir Member
Erica Lynn Duncan .... Texas Choir Member
Sondra Jackson Green .... Texas Choir Member
David Henderson .... Texas Choir Member
Parla J. Johnson .... Texas Choir Member
Donna Siddiqui .... Texas Choir Member
Tami Boaz Skelton .... Texas Choir Member
Rachel V. Stevenson .... Texas Choir Member
Gretchen Louise Watts .... Texas Choir Member
Jerry H. Skelton .... Organist

Produced by Steven Brown (co-producer), Rob Carliner (producer), Robert Duvall (executive producer), Ed Johnston (associate producer)
Original music by David Mansfield
Cinematography by Barry Markowitz
Film Editing by Stephen Mack

Rated PG-13 for thematic elements and a related scene of violence. Running time: 150 min.

3 Reviews--
David Bruce,
Mike Furches
& Amy Welborn
Written, directed, and personally financed by Robert Duvall, The Apostle was the culmination of a 14-year effort on the part of its creator, who also stars as the dynamic, God-fearing Texas preacher Euliss "Sonny" Dewey. Vibrantly authentic with its use of real gospel preachers and extras carefully selected from parishes of the deep South, the film treats its complicated characters with the kind of compassion and moral complexity mainstream Hollywood wouldn't dare muster. This is especially true in the case of Sonny, who responds to his wife's infidelity with a crime of passion that sends him on a new and uncharted quest for redemption. Under the assumed identity of "The Apostle E.F.," he settles in a tiny Louisiana town to revive an old church, where he undergoes a transformation of spirit and purpose that enlivens his community. But will the law catch up to him? Does he deserve to be punished? Fueled by Duvall's powerhouse performance, The Apostle refuses to praise or condemn its fascinating central character, leaving the proper degree of forgiveness up to the viewer. Further graced with superb performances by Farrah Fawcett, Miranda Richardson, and Billy Bob Thornton, the film is clearly Duvall's labor of love.
--Jeff Shannon of

tent.jpg (6066 bytes)   I went to see The Apostle after it had been out for a while. I am so sorry I didn't see it sooner. It was a great film. Unbelievably great! I wanted to take every one I knew to see it. But alas, the next weekend it wasn't showing in our area. We couldn't see it again. Few people I know saw it. It needed a longer run. But we scanned the paper for outlying areas and drove great distances to make the "pilgrimage" to see it again and again. Seeing this movie was like going to church! I have to say that the audiences we watched it with acted as if they had just been dismissed from a service - a service that was so great and inspiring they didn't want it to end. There was a great camaraderie among the audience; some even jumped up shouting, "Amen!" Unlike the usual Hollywood portrayal of ministers and Christians, watching The Apostle was a true spiritual experience.

     Many critics felt Robert Duvall would get the Best Actor Oscar award. But he didn't. I guess if Hollywood couldn't support its production they sure weren't about to honor it now.  Duvall should have walked away with the award, instead, Jack Nicholson got it for playing an obsessive/compulsive character in As Good as it Gets.

     I was in the Bible bookstore and the clerk told me Christians were suspicious of the film. "Another Hollywood portrayal of a preacher -it had to be bad" was the thinking she said. But, it's not. None-the-less few Christians saw it. In fact, Pastor Jack Hayford, a national known Pentecostal minister, refused to recommend it. I have heard other Christian leaders give a lukewarm response. I think they missed the point: It is great to see a real preacher with real humanity working through real issues. Flaws and all, I will take Duvall's "Sonny" over Burt Lancaster's "Elmer Gantry," any day.

    Enough of the negatives. This was an amazing film!

Apostle1.gif (54002 bytes)The Apostle began 35 years ago when, in 1962 during rehearsals for an off-Broadway show, Duvall was playing a man from Hughes, Ark.   Duvall went to Hughes. "I got off the Trailways bus," he recollects in Time magazine, "and wandered into this little church in Arkansas. There was a lively preacher; the congregation was stomping and moving and feeling the spirit. I said I'd like to play one of these guys one day."  In 1984 Duvall began writing. "I pieced it together from stuff that I had found out about this kind of life, just traveling around and absorbing like I do."

    After it was written 13 years ago, Hollywood refused to produce the movie. All the major studios turned Duvall down.  Roger Ebert explains its rejection this way; "it's about something, which scares them." Old associates, who had always promised help, didn't return Duvall's calls. Eventually Duvall put up 5 million dollars of his own money and produced it himself.

    Duvall's preacher is an exact representation of preachers from rural Texas, Virginia and Tennessee. "I listened to the way they whoop," he told Time, "then hold the note and cut it with a cadence." He even hired real preachers for small roles.  

apostle.jpg (7364 bytes)    The first sequence in the movie sets the tone for the film. As Sonny and his mother (played by an amazing elderly June Carter Cash) are driving down the highway, they happen upon a multi-car accident. Sonny sneaks past the gathering state troopers and approaches one of the smashed autos. He leans in to find a bloodied, semi-conscious young man in the driver's seat with his apparently dead wife lying beside him. Sonny whispers into the man's ear that if he'll accept Jesus right then and there, no matter what happens, he'll end up in the kingdom of heaven. Duvall is incredibly intense here; you're absolutely convinced that Sonny isn't pulling anybody's leg. When a state trooper steps over to drag him from the wreck, Sonny just keeps on preaching while literally kicking the trooper away.

Apostle2.gif (54950 bytes)     Sonny's wife is having an affair with the youth leader from their church and plots to "steal" the church from him. In an upstairs room at his mother's house, the preacher rants and raves with God.  "What should I do God?  This is Sonny. Tell me." 

     Sonny gives in to his despair over losing everyone including his ministry.  He drinks and in a horrifying moment he injures the youth pastor who is having the affair with his wife.  He leaves town destroying his old identity and sets off to find a new life.  He stops his car in the middle of an intersection, gets down on his knees in the street and asks, "which way, God, which way?

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"What Should I do God?
This is Sonny. Tell me." 

Apostle3.gif (48392 bytes)    He seeks redemption through prayer and fasting and symbolizes his new start with a baptism in a river.  He moves to a new state and starts life over as the Apostle.

  He talks to God constantly.  God is a very real personal companion. He begins a new church forming a partnership with a retired Black pastor.   He works two and three jobs to rehab the dilapidated and closed sanctuary belonging to the older man.  He fixes up a used bus and picks up people, black and white, to attend church.  He has a radio broadcast.  He feeds the hungry and loves the children.  This is an appealing minister of the gospel.  People respond to Sonny.  His warmth is genuine.  His church grows.  Everyone is happy.   But his past is going to catch up with him.   The youth pastor has died and Sonny just wants to get his church on firm ground before the authorities come for him.

    The language in the movie is true to form. It is the most perfect representation of Southern Pentecostal style Christianity ever portrayed on film.   Robert Duvall used real congregations and real preachers.  He used sermons by real preachers, adopting their style and passion that makes it easy to recognize with all who are familiar.  One great "insider" moment was the baptismal scene.   Sonny baptized himself twice:  Once he went under saying the Trinitarian words, "In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit."  Then he immediately went under again saying, "In Jesus' name."  This is the form used by "Jesus Only" churches as found in the Pentecostal movement.  You need to be on the "inside" to know that bit of information.

    I believe that some of the negative reaction from the Christian community towards the film has been because Sonny is a flawed character.   He has a temper, he is a womanizer and he killed a man in a moment of passion.   Terrible, yes; unforgivable, no!  One cannot deny that this man is a true believer, painfully aware of his humanity and yet dedicated to Jesus Christ.  He preaches the new birth and believes in the power of the Holy Spirit to overcome sin in one's life.  The most moving events in the movie are when he leads others to the Lord.  He prays with the young man in the car accident to receive the Lord; a menacing man (played by Billy Bob Thornton) who wants to literally destroy his church converts and at the end of the film Sonny's friend, a young mechanic, in a powerful moment comes forward to receive Christ in an alter call given by Sonny.  Even in prison, Sonny is consumed with telling others about his Jesus.  The whole chain gang converts and follows Sonny's chants - chants about the all powerful and loving Jesus.

    Robert Duvall was as impressed by his "Sonny," character as the rest of us. In a Guidepost article, Duvall, says, "One Sunday in New York I visited six churches, ending up at Harlem's vast Abyssinia Baptist Church. There in a packed congregation before a huge choir, when we all began to sing "What a Friend We Have in Jesus," I found myself connected to the Lord in a way I had never felt before, deep within me. Yes, I thought, we're all kin through Jesus. Not just what we read about him in the Bible, but who he is. That was the secret to powerful faith, the power I wanted to convey in my movie...I'm proud of the film.

  Many of the parts are played by real people and real preachers, not professional actors, because true faith is something that's hard to duplicate...I hope (viewers) will be moved - moved the way I was when I happened upon that small church in Arkansas and with no warning something awakened within me that had always been there, dormant and untouched until that day.  It was the greatest discovery I ever made."

Click to go to Tom's Blog



Lessons in church planting from Hollywood

The Apostle

It’s a rare thing when a Hollywood film depicts authentic Christian faith, much less an effective illustration of planting churches.

But the 1997 film, The Apostle, succeeds on both fronts. The film stars Robert Duvall as Sonny, a successful Southern Holiness preacher who commits a crime of passion. Choosing to run from the law, Sonny takes on a new identity as the Apostle E.F. and hides out in the small town of Bayou Boutte, La., where he believes God is calling him to plant a church.

In addition to starring in the film, Duvall wrote, directed and produced The Apostle with $5 million of his own money. While some Christians find it difficult to draw spiritual meaning from the film because of Sonny’s sins, The Apostle provides a powerful character who is both flawed and able to be used as a channel of God’s grace. Sonny is much like King David, himself a murder and adulterer, whom the Bible describes as a man after God’s own heart.

When Sonny arrives in Bayou Boutte, he instantly begins walking through the community, praying that God will lead him. He makes simple conversation with an auto mechanic, and in the process finds an occupation (mechanic) and a place to live while supporting his vocation (church planter). The first two people with whom he comes into contact soon become significant members of his emerging congregation.

Next, he seeks out a partner in the ministry in a respected, retired minister. This colleague not only proves to be a source of spiritual support for Sonny, but he also provides contacts with others in the community and a rent-free meetingplace.

There also is an acknowledgement that other churches have legitimate roles, implying that Sonny seeks the unchurched rather than stealing from other flocks. While watching a Catholic priest blessing fishing boats as they leave the harbor, Sonny says, “You do it your way. I do it mine. But we get it done, don't we?”

Sonny begins working multiple jobs to fix up the meetinghouse and buy time on the local radio station for his preaching. Enlisting friends, contacts and neighborhood children in renovating the meetinghouse, Sonny makes the work both fun and instructional for the children. For the first several meetings, he personally drives a resurrected bus to pick up people.

The name of the church, One Way Road to Heaven, provides a clear sense of Sonny’s identity for the congregation and for its Christ-centered focus. Eleven people participate in the first meeting, at which Sonny is already instructing the congregation on Bible reading, tithing and loving one another.

In a few weeks, the church has a choir, whose singing is featured on the radio. We see all of Sonny’s casual contacts participating in the church. The church seeks to meet the physical needs of the community by distributing food baskets to needy families. People are being baptized, and the church is growing. Children have a prominent place, and Sonny is actively serving as a mentor to potential leaders.

Troubles and conflict inevitably arise, even within the church. Sonny deals with it directly and with love. When a man physically threatens the church, Sonny responds in a manner that demonstrates his understanding of God’s power and of the man’s own spiritual need. What happens demonstrates the power of God through the church to transform lives, even led by such a flawed vessel as Sonny.

When The Apostle ends, it’s left unstated whether “the little church in the wildwood” will survive. What is clear is that Sonny has given it his all. The rest is up to God.

Acts 13:22

Comment on Tom's blog

Review By MIKE FURCHES (2001)

Review by

Web site

Mike is the Senior Pastor at United at the Cross Community Church in Wichita Kansas. United at the Cross is a church made up of individuals not often accepted in other churches. The church consists of former gang members, drug addicts, prostitutes and others. Mike also speaks nationally on various topics and is a freelance writer. To learn more about Mike and his ministry link onto In the arts Mike has worked with top music artists such as Steppenwolf, Marshall Tucker Band, Kansas and has an active interest in film. Mike is pictured with his music band "Route 66." His reviews include The Mummy Returns. Amistad, The Apostle, Armageddon, The Cell, Dr Dolittle 2, ELO -Zoom, Frequency, The Patriot, Pearl Harbor, Rush Hour 2, Shrek, Extreme Days, The Last Castle, Serendipity, Ali, Reversal, Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, Jimmy Neutron, Mothman, Black Hawk Down

I have been getting caught up on movies that I have seen and never reviewed. It was a pleasure and joy to see a movie like Apostle. I remember seeing the review on and deciding to go see it. I was lucky; it was still in theaters here in Tulsa. I saw the film by myself and was so impressed that I took my family back to see it again, and later again, and then purchased the video once it came out. There is not much more that can be said regarding the quality of the movie than has already been said. I will say that of all the movies I have seen, from an acting perspective, The Apostle shows without doubt why Robert Duvall is one of our best actors, ever. I believe that this may be the best-nominated Oscar acting role that never won. While I liked Jack Nicholson in As Good as it Gets, I believe Duvall did a much more challenging role and he was completely surrounded by a brilliant

There are other areas that I will comment on; I will try to name only a few. The first thing that I believe has to be addressed is the criticism this movie has received by many "Christians" because of the fact that Sonny, Duvall's' character, is flawed. Yes, it is true that Sonny resorts back to alcohol for a brief moment, he has a temper, he has a weakness regarding women, and other frailties. I have heard many comments like, "Why do they have to always show the bad things about Christians." or, "This man didn't really know the Lord." While some "Christians" said these things, my non Christian friends who have seen the movie have made comments like, "If Christians where as honest about their mistakes as this guy was then maybe I would consider their belief." or, "This guy, dispute his problems really seemed to care about people." It is so easy to focus on an individual's sin than it is their Redeemer or Savior. While I did see Sonny as a preacher with character flaws (not like we haven't had any of those is it?), I also saw him as a person who loved God and truly repented of his sin. In many ways, he reminded me of the character of King David. Thank God most of us didn't live in his time and make the kind of judgments about him that we do each other.

While there has been a lot of focus on the poor traits of Sonny, I believe the overall strength of the film is in his strengths. Rarely, if ever, has a character ever been portrayed that showed the desire, hope, and passion to reach the lost for Jesus as does Sonny in The Apostle: From the poor, who have groceries delivered to their doorstep, to the African Americans who in the deep south in Louisiana rarely worship with Whites. You could even look at the willingness to work hard jobs to make enough money to give back, forget the 10% tithe principle; Sonny lives in a tent and gives back 100%. He does it to buy and repair a bus to take people to church and then totally remodel a church, to pay for a radio broadcast where he preaches as opposed to begs for money. This character also displays his love for the lost in showing a tremendous act of love towards the one individual who totally hates what this church stands for, in the character of Billy Bob Thornton. Sonny is even capable of loving the one person who ultimately betrays him. He loves him enough to give him the most precious physical possession he owns after that person receives Christ, his Bible. The other characteristic I truly appreciate about Sonny, is that he recognizes when he has done wrong, and is sorry for his mistakes in a real way. He seeks God's forgiveness and never forgets that in his mistakes it is Christ who provides forgiveness.

It is no wonder that so many "Christians" don't like the film and so many non-Christians did. The concepts and character that Sonny displays is easy to be critical of from the outside. However, when looking at his strengths it is so easy to not look inside our own hearts because we realize our own imperfections.

If you have never seen this movie, rent it or buy it now on video. It is a tremendous film from the aspect of filmmaking and log in eye versus speck in eye mentality. (Matthew 7:1-6)

On a scale of 1 - 10, Making a few "Christians" mad and followers of Jesus happy, my perspective - a perfect 10


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Review By Amy Welborn
Amy has an interesting home page, The Spirited Life. She is a religious and political writter.
You can e-mail her at

It's all about holiness at its most real - God working through the weakness of the cracked, earthen vessels He has, mysteriously, entrusted to do His will.

Why should you see this movie?
First of all, it's simply an excellent, completely original film, in a time in which the vast majority of movies are made for nothing but commercial purposes, which essentially means constructing product that appeals to one of two audiences: either teenagers- movies that feature lithe, dewy eyed hunks and chicks meeting cute, cracking wise and then sweatily and breathlessly having sex - or the international audience - movies that are essentially one hundred minutes of big explosions and minimal amounts of dialogue in need of translation. No, this is a densely written film made with vision, passion and substance. If you haven't been to the movies for a while because you don't want to waste your money on mindless formulaic predictability, not to speak of gratuitous sex, violence and profanity, this movie will be a treat for you.

But you should also see The Apostle because it's one of the most realistic, understanding depictions of religious faith ever put on celluloid. Hollywood just doesn't get religious faith. Characters in television or in the movies who have some sort of religious faith are usually presented as either intolerant, hypocritical bigots or milquetoast sentimentalists. Scenes or stories involving religion provide filmmakers with opportunities to demean and invert religious symbolism, if they're dealing with a "bad" religion - traditional Christianity- or to be sympathetically picturesque - Buddhism being the primary current beneficiary of that tendency. This explains why Duvall couldn't get Hollywood to finance his picture, and ultimately had to put up the money himself, after thirteen years of trying.

For his Apostle - the Reverend Eulis "Sonny" Dewey - is a fire-breathing Pentecostal preacher who's consumed by "Holy Ghost power" and brings it down to earth in a whirlwind of shouting, barking and lunging hops. He and his wife (played by Farrah Fawcett) run an interracial church in Texas, and from that base, Sonny does his share of evangelizing on the road, as well. Passion permeates his life, and we're told indirectly about Sonny's wandering eye and we see hints of his ego, but what we see most of all is his faith - totally convinced that God is God and Sonny's sole purpose in life is to let God work through him, whether that be pastoring his church, ministering to a couple injured in a car accident, or loving his children - his "beauties" - as he calls them. He falls, though, and he falls hard, and the bulk of the film is the story of Sonny's long road back to wholeness, and what makes the story so powerful is how real that journey is - it's neither some idealized, Touched by an Angel hagiography, and neither is it a Hollywood redemption, which would require Sonny to discover the true nature of his hopelessly "narrow" beliefs, grow a ponytail and move to Tibet. No, Duvall's Apostle is a very real, flawed person who is working out his salvation like the rest of us - within the limitations of who he is, his faith being integral to that, and being in turn shaped by his own passionate, single-minded personality.

The film is minutely, lovingly detailed - I felt as if I was watching life, not a movie, a feeling intensified by the fact that I was seated a couple of rows in front of an entire row of middle-aged black men and women who sang softly along with every hymm that broke through on the soundtrack. Like another Robert Duvall film with spiritual overtones, Tender Mercies, this film is about grace. God is not stopped, we see, by human failure. He wasn't stopped by the horrific violence of Joseph's brothers, by Jacob's deceit of his own father or by David's murder of his lover's husband. He wasn't stopped by the weakness of his servants - by Moses' speechlessness, by Jeremiah's youth or by Jonah's narrow-mindedness.

As in Graham Greene's novel, The Power and the Glory, The Apostle centers our gaze on less than ideal figures - Greene's whiskey priest and Duvall's Sonny are sinners and they know it, but what good are plaster saints to any of us? No - they are like the rest of us - scrambling, crawling our way towards God, drawn by Him and His promise, running from it, fearful, proud and sinful, but drawn again and actually managing to do good despite ourselves. It's all about holiness at its most real - God working through the weakness of the cracked, earthen vessels He has, mysteriously, entrusted to do His will.

Amy has an interesting home page, The Spirited Life. She is a religious and political writter.
You can e-mail her at

Subject: The_Apostle
Date: Mon, 14 Jan 2002
From: Beng Oppus

Today is Jan. 14, 2002. It's been about five years since the movie first came out, and I regret not having seen it sooner. Like most of the Christian community I was suspicious of the movie when it first came out. Now, like the people who posted responses on this site, I have nothing but praise for this film. I have been recommending it to all my friends in church. I can even see some sermons coming from this film!

It is a powerful visual to show what God can do in spite of ourselves and our humanity. I will definitely recommend this film as a prelude to the next men's retreat.

Beng Oppus
San Jose, California

Date: Sun, 28 Nov 1999
From: Josiah

I just finished writing a film analysis of the movie The Apostle for a theology class I am taking here at College. Your reviews were very informative and I appreciate the help in deciphering this movie. I had no idea some of the themes that developed right under my nose. I was also impressed by your view on the movie. I was impressed by the fact that you kept an open mind to the film and the deeper meaning that is harder to see. Like you I had heard Christians that viewed the film being cautious about recommending it. I enjoyed reading your review on the movie because you recognized the fact that God was able to use a flawed human being to further His message. I was impressed by your website and also the points you bring up in the course of your reviews. I thank God for your insight and your willingness to point out things that others may not have seen or may be unwilling to write. May God lead you in everything you do. Have a great day!

Josiah Dunlap

My responses: Wow! Thank you for that!

September 17, 1999. 

A few years ago I began to feel a call to the ministry. I couldn't believe God would be calling me. I was not worthy to serve in such an important position. I shared these feelings with my Pastor who replied, "You're not! None of us are. But God calls us anyway!" The Apostle is such a powerful reminder of the ways in which God can use us in spite of ourselves. I was moved to tears more than once. I hope and pray that I never make such terrible mistakes as Sonny made, but I am also humbled by the knowledge that I may never make as much of an impact on people's lives as he did. All I can say is "Thank God" Hollywood rejected this film so that they didn't have an opportunity to ruin Robert Duvall's inspired vision!
My response: I really liked this film.  It moved me to the core.  I think you are right about Duvall making this film.  It did make it better.

April 23, 1999.

The Apostle is absolute BEST picture Hollywood has produced about the scandalous, wonderful, fathomless grace of God. This picture says more about the deep, deep love of Jesus, than anything (including the so-called "religious" flics) I have ever seen come out of Hollywood. Thank you Bobby Duvall!!! I am a Christian Counselor, and I have many of my clients rent the film as a part of their therapy.

April 12, 1999.

I just wrote a 60 page paper on the process of redemption in "The Apostle." Your reviews were of much help. Thank you.–Scott

March 29, 1999.

I just finished watching this movie and I definitely did not get the same message as everyone else, it seems. I was repulsed by the main character however the movie did force me to think. I thought Duvall's character was an extremely unlikeable person. To me, it seemed he did not struggle with temptation but rather struggled with the consequences. He killed a man and then ran away from the consequences and ran away from his children. As his mother passed away he continued to hide. The apostle did have redeemable qualities; his food distribution and personal relationship with God. Yet the feeling that I had as I watched was that Sonny felt God was on his side no matter what he did. I saw no remorse except when consequences caught up with him. BUT I thought that this movie was a great display of God using a despicable character to do his work. -Mark (

March 16, 1999.

I like all of the comments I saw on this site, but I think something is missing. I see Sonny as a Christ figure in this movie. In the scene where sonny baptizes himself in order to restart his life is similar to the beginning of the Gospel of Mark. Mark has no infancy narratives and Jesus begins life in Christ after baptism at the age of thirty-three. Mark is believed to be the first gospel recorded, and one would not know to begin recording Jesus' life right at the beginning. It is more likely Jesus first came on the scene at a much older age, like Sonny does in the Apostle. Another thing Duvall's character does that is Christ like is the calling of his diciples. I can't remember their names but the retired Rev., the radio station guy, and the young mechanic kid were all called as Duvall's diciples and they were with him to the end. Still need more? How about Sonny's interaction to the children. There are numerous scenes where Duvall is interacting with children in some way. The one scene that sticks out in my mind is the scene where Duvall and about twenty-five children paint and repair Sonny's new church. Remember Jesus' feelings on children? Last, but not least the final scenes where Sonny is taken away by the authorities could not resemble the roman soldiers taken Jesus away as his diciples watched on, just as Sonny's do. I know that the Apostle is not a literal story of the life and teaching of Christ, but their are to many similarities that just can't be ignored. Some quick ones to think about: Billy Bob Thortan as a pharisee, Sonny constantly "talking" to God in a personal voice, and finally do we really know what Jesus was like before he started his ministry? --Joel Warger

Feb 2 1999,

I absolutly LOVED this film!! It never played in our area-- but we rented it when it came out on video and my husband and I slipped in a few AMEN's in there too!! We loved it! The reason I think that some Christians didnt like this movie was because Sonny did something wrong. Preachers are human too! They are no holier than other Christians. But people have a hard time with accepting the fact that Sonny made a mistake. The part that really touched me about the movie-- besides the part with Billy-Bob Thornton and the Bulldozer-- was when the police were there to take him away-- and they gave him the rest of the time to complete his sermon, one of the origional people from the One Way to Heaven church caught Sonny's eye and reassured him nonverbally that everything will be OK because the Lord is there. That look really moved me. Another thing that I really liked was the ACTUAL salvation message was given!! I was totally amazed and ecstatic at the same time!! If that movie got people saved I wouldnt be a bit surprised-- if I wasnt saved, after watching that-- I sure as heck would be!!! --Amanda

Oct. 19 1998.

After seeing The Apostle twice on video recently I read some reviews and stumbled upon your web page. It was mainly to get a sense of what Christians are  saying about it... and I was pleasantly surprised. You brought up many excellent points none of the other  critics/reviewers mentioned.
     Since this movie, to me, seemed to be about redemption... I couldn't help but to make comparisons with another movie with a completely different approach to the subject of redemption... "Pulp Fiction" I was wondering if you ever saw it... or chose not to  because of the explicit violence it was famous for?
     Samual L. Jackson plays a gangster who would regularly "spout" supposed Bible passages just before making a "hit"... but when he  miraculously escapes death... he realizes there was meaning  to those words... where before... they were just for the effect of terrorizing his victims. The changes he undergoes have an  effect on others around him... at one point deciding to spare  a life where before he would have thought nothing of pulling  the trigger.
     Pulp Fiction is also famous for the many unanswered mysteries such as "what's in the briefcase", the bandage on the back of a  man's neck (covering up the mark of the beast?)... many of  them have religious overtones (though Tarantino denies it).
     I found so many, equally tantilizing mysteries in the "Apostle" that I have yet to hear anyone bring up. At one point Sonny picks up an old photo portrait of two boys... obviously twins (implying that he is one of them).   He mentions that his brother is (or was) a race car driver (who taught him to repair engines). The mystery is... we see Sonny as a boy taken to church
by a black woman... (where was his brother and mother?) he doesn't seem happy to be there...  Right after that we see them leaving the church. However, the two  are the only ones leaving... why?
     His brother ended up in the 'fast lane'? While Sonny ended up in a life of seeking spiritual growth? I think Duvall wanted to make this subtle hint.
     That Duvall makes them twins... is what makes it more   interesting. A duality in blood, split on life's paths to opposite extremes?
     My parents always had my sister and myself participate together in every activity concerning church right up to  our teen years... so this, for me, is the biggest mystery. (Did did father move out and take his brother with him?)
     That Sonny makes such a big deal about hiding his real name in "E.F." brings up more about his mysterious  mind and childhood history. He even tells the police not to say the names too loudly. (Even the name "Sonny" has interesting posibilities.)
     It's these almost-hidden details that help make films  like this so interesting... beyond the obviously wonderful acting...  or was it really acting?! I'm really not sure!

Mr. Dave,
The only thing I can suggest to you is never, I repeat,   NEVER get a Youth Pastor!
Later, Greg

This is a wonderful web project--creative, fun and so informative. I'm Chair of Education at a small Christian college and will definitely link to your site from my departmental home page. I haven't gotten too far into your reviews as yet, but I was eager to see your reports on "The Apostle." I agree that it is a wonderful movie, both in its content and its acting/production. Interestingly, as my wife and I debriefed following the film, we found we had very opposite reactions. I was very moved by Sonny and his humanness. She had experienced early in her childhood some overbearing Pentacostal evangelists, so she watched the entire movie with tenseness and negative feelings. Your review is "right on" in showing wildly varied views and opinions. Thanks for your efforts. I know the effort involved in even small web-based projects (I maintain several sites), and you are doing a terrific job. I'm proud of the ability and insight of so many ... to bridge gaps between our faith in Christ and living in our late 20th Century culture. It's no small task, and it takes flexible, creative thinking, along with mature, secure faith.

The Apostle ©1997,1998 October Films