King of Devil's Island


King of Devil's Island

Critics Consensus

Scandinavian in the most bleakly satisfying way, King of Devil's Island satisfies with a richly layered narrative and a typically strong performance from Stellan Skarsgard.



Total Count: 47


Audience Score

User Ratings: 2,690
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Movie Info

This true story of the infamous Bastøy Boys Home correctional facility in Norway, begins with the arrival of seventeen-year-old Erling, a rumored murderer. He immediately clashes with the island facility's governor (Stellan Skarsgård), who believes manual labor, rigid discipline, and harsh punishment are the only methods that can turn the boys into honorable members of society. Refusing to accept the constant abuse, Erling slowly rouses the rest of the boys out of their resigned existence, and encourages them to fight to lift up their spirits. When tragedy finally falls at the hand of the sadistic dorm master, Erling leads his comrades in a courageous and vicious rebellion that will bring them head to head with no less than the Norwegian Army. -- (C) Film Movement


Critic Reviews for King of Devil's Island

All Critics (47) | Top Critics (16) | Fresh (44) | Rotten (3)

  • Based on a true story, there is a dramatic force here, even if the whole is a trifle long and repetitive.

    Jun 29, 2012 | Rating: 3/5 | Full Review…
  • Robust acting and crisp direction eases the old-rope material through to the inevitable conflagration.

    Jun 28, 2012 | Rating: 3/5 | Full Review…

    Xan Brooks

    Top Critic
  • beneath the staid, ordered, colour-dulled surfaces of Marius Holst's King of Devil's Island lurk various forms of hypocrisy, corruption and abuse, suggesting something very rotten in the (then) state of Norway.

    Jun 28, 2012
  • Rather one-note in its bleakness, and doesn't have a vast amount to say beyond 'reform school sucks'.

    Jun 26, 2012 | Rating: 3/5 | Full Review…
  • Possibly no one else does "grim" with as much unsparing enthusiasm as the Scandinavians.

    Mar 16, 2012 | Rating: 3/4 | Full Review…
  • Skarsgard is riveting throughout as a man whose high morality is steeped in hypocrisy and whose mask of civility easily slips, when challenged, to reveal the monster beneath.

    Mar 15, 2012 | Rating: 2.5/4 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for King of Devil's Island

  • Apr 27, 2013
    In 1915, Erling(Benjamin Helstad) and Ivar(Magnus Langlete) are sent to the boys reform camp on Bastoy Island, under the stewardship of its governor, Bestyreren(Stellan Skarsgard), who assigns them to C dorm with its very watchful housefather, Brathen(Kristoffer Joner). Bestyreren has taken a special interest in Erling who he feels Bastoy would be a better fit than prison, since Erling had previously been in the navy, employing the promise of an eventual release in exchange for good behavior. Erling begs to disagree, as he soon starts planning his escape. "King of Devil's Island" is a slow and predictable movie that occasionally feels like a Norwegian juvenile version of "Cool Hand Luke," as Erling has definite problems with authority, trying to tick them off at every turn. That takes away a lot from any possible emotional impact that "The King of Devil's Island" might have had when it severely remarks on the past treatment of children where wayward ones(that said, it is possible Erling killed someone) were sent to a remote island that contained the very real threats of corporal punishment, humiliation and sexual abuse.(Bullying is a bit on the light side, though.) And as a specific true story, it probably more or less concerns the more dramatic third act.
    Walter M Super Reviewer
  • Dec 03, 2012
    Ok. I am convinced..Stellan Skarsgard + movie role = quality film! This based-on-a-true-story film is top-notch good. This is what great filmmaking is all about. A magnificent, and unforgettable film. Every scene is perfect, each actor's performance is spot on. If this movie doesn't touch you on some level, I don't know what will. My ONLY complaint is there was no follow up summary, but I guess we can all google things these I forgive them...
    Cynthia S Super Reviewer
  • Jun 08, 2012
    Excellent film about an event, that before this movie, I had no idea had even happened. In the Bastoy Boys' home Wikipedia entry there isn't even anything regarding the uprising and what caused it, but it was known that the facility handed out severe punishment. And what information I've found in other places doesn't add much, just says that there was a revolt that took place in 1915. So it's definitely hard to gander whether the events this movie portrayed are based in fact, which I really doubt, or if they just crafted a story using this revolt as its basis. Regardless, it's a completely fascinating film, one that definitely holds your attention throughout, with very little moments of filler. In fact I'd go as far as to say that everything in the movie serves a purpose in the grand scheme of things and that's most definitely good. Especially lately as I've seen a lot of movies that could've trimmed some fat here and there. It's got a good, solid story. Great performances, Stellan Skarsgard is excellent as always. And the leads, as in the "good" guys, are likable and you want to see them do something about all the bullshit, however fucked up they were or not, that they had to go through. Another thing, while the movie definitely has a grim look and feel, it's all beautifully shot. Don't know how much of it is fact and how much of it is fiction, but it's still a great movie and it's on netflix instant streaming, so get watching!
    Jesse O Super Reviewer
  • May 13, 2012
    'The King of Devil's Island'. A sobering tale on the abuse of power and the small rebellions that can lead to outright chaos. The grim, beautiful Norwegian winter plays a fine backdrop to all round solid performances.
    c0up   Super Reviewer

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