Calvary

The opening scene of John Michael McDonagh‘s Calvary is a frightening juxtaposition that perfectly sets the tone for what’s to come. Father James (Brendan Gleeson) is taking confession from a mysterious man who admits to being molested by a priest as a child. Not this specific priest, though, another one, and to get revenge he tells Father James he’s going to kill him for no good reason. In an instant, McDonagh has sucked the audience in.

Much like McDonagh and Gleeson’s previous film The Guard, Calvary is wholly original. It blends elements of mystery, a detective story and comedy with lots of philosophical ruminations. As Father James spends what might be his final week alive dealing with the townspeople, one of which is his would-be murderer, he tries to solve the riddle by delving into their problems (alcoholism, depression, adultery, etc) through his Catholic beliefs. The result is an ambitious, slow-burn drama with dynamite performances from top to bottom that just misses the mark because it’s trying to do too much. Read More »

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Calvary

A noble, wise priest is told he’s going to be killed in a week simply because he’s good. That’s the start of Calvary, written and directed by John Michael McDonagh (The Guard), which had its world premiere this week at the Sundance Film Festival. The film, which stars Brendan Gleeson, generated solid buzz for its mix of pseudo-detective story and philosophical rumination. And now, you’ll all get a chance to see it as Fox Searchlight acquired it for domestic distribution. It’s their second Sundance purchase, following I OriginsRead More »

 

Trailers are an under-appreciated art form insofar that many times they’re seen as vehicles for showing footage, explaining films away, or showing their hand about what moviegoers can expect. Foreign, domestic, independent, big budget: What better way to hone your skills as a thoughtful moviegoer than by deconstructing these little pieces of advertising? This week we get weird with black and white, get haunted for s and giggles, kill a priest for funsies, send some kids to jail, and try not to die while skiing.
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Trailers are an under-appreciated art form insofar that many times they’re seen as vehicles for showing footage, explaining films away, or showing their hand about what moviegoers can expect. Foreign, domestic, independent, big budget: I celebrate all levels of trailers and hopefully this column will satisfactorily give you a baseline of what beta wave I’m operating on, because what better way to hone your skills as a thoughtful moviegoer than by deconstructing these little pieces of advertising? Some of the best authors will tell you that writing a short story is a lot harder than writing a long one, that you have to weigh every sentence. What better medium to see how this theory plays itself out beyond that than with movie trailers?

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The Guard, which was picked up at Sundance by Sony Pictures Classics, is one of those movies you’re going to be quoting and turning your friends on to. Though it seems pretty surface based on a general description, once you see it, you realize it’s a truly special movie complete with humor, action, heart and one of the most memorable characters in recent years. That character, Sergeant Gerry Boyle played by Brendan Gleeson, is sort of Bad Lieutenant Light. He’s got plenty of bad habits – drinks on the job, says horrible things – but is actually a decent guy and great cop. Put that character in the middle of a simple murder mystery, co-starring Don Cheadle and Mark Strong, written and directed by John Michael McDonagh, and you’ve got one of the best movies at this year’s Sundance Film Festival. Read More »

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