Skip to main content

Review: Calvary

Director John Michael McDonagh wastes no time in establishing the stakes of Calvary. In a darkened confessional, Father James Lavelle (Brendan Gleeson) is told that he is going to die in a week. The man planning to kill the priest explains it is exactly because Father Lavelle has done nothing wrong that he is going to die. Of the two McDonagh brothers, John Michael is known for his irreverent comedy The Guard, but with this latest release he joins the ranks of the most fatalistic of Irish artists.


With the seven days allotted to the father, he seeks to sort out his affairs while attending to his parish. The locals in question are made up of Chris O’Dowd, Aidan Gillen, Dylan Moran, M. Emmet Walsh and Isaach De Bankolé all existing at varying levels of disillusionment with the church after so many scandals and personal failures. Adding to Father Lavelle’s dilemma is his daughter Fiona’s (Kelly Reilly) recent return to town after an attempt at suicide.
There is a black heart at the center of Calvary, raging against the storm. Father Lavelle knows his tormentor, but his respect for the confessional booth keeps him from turning in the man. The potential killer could be any one of his residents. Each man and woman unleashes vicious anger on the priest in hopes of not only tearing down the man, but the God Lavelle represents. Such blackness risks potentially overtaking the film, but, Gleeson, the heart of the film (though Reilly and Walsh stake their own claims for that) pulls it back from reaching melodrama.
A good man and priest by nature, Lavelle strains under the looming threat of his death. Besieged by the behavior of the local villagers, every passing day serves as a test of his faith. This struggle would be compelling material for any actor, but it is made all the more affecting here by the casting of Brendan Gleeson. It is almost criminal how underrated Gleeson is as an actor. In the decades worth of versatile performances he has turned in, exactly zero have garnered him an Academy Award nomination. A turn this strong and this powerful deserves some buzz, and it’s about time to recognize the man who has been stealing shows for years.
McDonagh’s philosophical musings lead to quandaries in the heart of Lavelle and viewers as well; a close spiritual companion to Calvary could be found in Martin Scorsese’s The Last Temptation of Christ. Neither film could be considered a faithful Biblical adaptation, but they offer more emotional charge and understanding than something that is straight from the good book. An institution as large as The Catholic Church cannot make penance, but one man can. And when that man is played by Brendan Gleeson, a film doesn’t get much finer than that. From its very intense opening to the final shattering conclusion, Calvary might very well be 2014′s first masterpiece.

Popular posts from this blog

Herman Melville and Office Space

Just from gleaning the surface of Office Space one would assume that there isn't anything simmering below the surface except for a raunchy work-comedy, but they would be wrong.
After the harsh critical reception of his greatest work Moby Dick Melville wrote a collection of short stories called Bartleby and Benito Cereno perhaps the greatest slam at the time against industrial America. Bartleby is the story of a Wall Street copyist who has his three employees proof-read and copy law forms. Shortly into the story Bartleby starts responding to work commands with, "I would prefer not to." Frustrated by his employee's subordination the Narrator tries to have him fired but Bartleby refuses to leave the office. The Narrator comes back the following morning to find Bartleby living inside his office. Bartleby becomes increasingly less apt to perform basic functions as eating after he is jailed for trespassing and dies in a jail cell. What at once starts out as a comedy has …

Paprika vs. Inception

Months before Inception hit the theaters forums were alive with rumors that Christopher Nolan either accidentally or intentionally stole some details from another film, the Japanese anime Paprika. The biggest point of comparison for some bloggers and forum runners was the fact that both of the films featured a device that allowed a person, or people, to travel into another’s dreams and delve into their subconscious.
Minor points of comparison include scenes in Paprika where the character Paprika breaks through a mirrored wall by holding her hand to it, as well as a scene where a police detective falls his way down a hallway. Claims have been made that Inception abounds with imagery similar to or exactly like the anime movie, but with the recent release of the film on DVD and Blu-Ray, and with Paprika available for several years now, an examination of the two plots can be made more fully.
Let us begin with the primary claim—Inception stole the idea of a dream machine from Paprika. It …

The Snowman Giveaway

The Snowman, a terrifying thriller based on the novel by Jo Nesbø, is being released on Oct 19th. To celebrate the release of the new thriller starring Michael Fassbender and Rebecca Ferguson, Never Mind Pop Film is hosting a Snowman Killer Blog App and a giveaway for readers.


The Snowman pack has:
1 - Limited Edition Snowman Plush Doll: This limited edition Snowman plush is only available via this promotion and has a run of 200 pieces worldwide. It is a replica of the killer’s Snowman and features a detachable head and the Snowman logo on the bottom.
1 - The Snowman Official Promo Shirt - An official promo T-Shirt featuring The Snowman logo on the front and the signature design on the back.
1 - Replica Snowman Killer Letter - A replica of the Snowman killer’s note, sealed.

All you have to do to win is follow @thesnowmanmovieand tweet @wordsbycbiggs with the hashtag #thesnowmanpack. You must submit your tweet by October 25th to participate. Giveaway open to the U.S. and Canada.