Gleeson impresses again in this spiritual sequel to The Guard
Calvary Blu-ray Review
Although reuniting the writer/director of The Guard, John Michael McDonagh, with his favourite leading man, Brendan Gleeson, this is, in many ways, a spiritual sequel but the tone is far more dark and oppressive, largely eschewing The Guard’s action-comedy antics in favour of gloom and doom.Still, Gleeson’s on absolute top form, turning in another scene-stealing, powerhouse performance in yet another unusual, atypical role which requires him to delve deep and commit wholeheartedly. Despite the low-key nature of the story – which involves a priest who is informed in a confessional that a man is going to kill him in a week, just to make a statement against ‘good’ priests – it’s worth seeing for Gleeson alone.
McDonagh’s remit was apparently to provide something of an antithesis to all the tales of bad priests, who abuse their flock, by positing this unconventional but undeniably good man of the cloth, who is both dedicated to the cause and perfect in the position. Gleeson convinces utterly in this respect – you get the feeling that this is the way you’d like all priests to be; not, as his character states to another man of the cloth, “somebody who should be an accountant working for an insurance company.”He’s tough and no-nonsense, thoughtful and human, honest but not critical, forgiving but not frivolous with forgiveness. The mixed group of largely unpleasant – but wholly realistic – characters who populate his world include Chris O’Dowd’s surprisingly effective turn as an abusive husband, a thoughtful Kelly Reilly as Gleeson’s suicidal daughter, a suitably snarly Aidan Gillen as a the typically morbid mortician, and a scary turn from Gleeson’s own son, Domhnall, as an imprisoned murderer.
Still, it’s Gleeson who shines, bringing in a soulful performance that drives the entire piece. Despite the raving about the performance(s), there’s no doubt that the film struggles to find a meaningful ending, and the choices made along the way are arguably more effective than the destination.
What is Calvary Blu-ray Picture LikeCalvary comes to Region B-locked UK Blu-ray complete with a 1080p/AVC-encoded High Definition video presentation in the movie’s original theatrical aspect ratio of 2.40:1 widescreen. Although not exactly boasting any kind of budget to speak of, the film looks surprisingly beautiful, in no small part thanks to the stunning Irish landscapes showcased across the runtime.
Detail is largely excellent, with skin observations nailing every last wrinkle and crease on Gleeson’s face, practically differentiating each and every hair on his head and chin. Fine object detail resounds, allowing for some wonderful clothing weaves and background textures, and lapping up the almost alien (in that they are so beautifully untouched) landscapes with every last nuance and flourish.
Calvary may not offer big budget visuals, but it makes up for it with detailed observations and some stunning Irish landscapes as a backdrop.
The colour scheme is rich and broad, with the exteriors coming across as the most natural, and providing rich green landscapes and an authentically grey sky. Bar interiors do tend to skew a little bit towards yellow, which consequently gives skin tones a marginally golden hue, but this is mostly due to the bar lighting, and, when you compare it to the exteriors – and some of the other interiors – the difference is significant. Black levels are strong and rich, complete with impressive shadow detail, seldom faltering and swaying in favour of crush; remaining largely impenetrable.
In fact there’s no signs of any digital defects – no overt edge enhancement, no excessive DNR application, no artifacting, aliasing or blocking. Indeed it’s largely demo material.
What does Calvary Blu-ray Sound likeThe accompanying DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track is far from bombastic – the material simply never allows for it – but it handles what it has to offer with precision and some welcome punch, embracing the engaging song-based soundtrack with verve and passion, and delivering a few noteworthy louder flourishes, like gunshots, with both surround separation and LFE input.
Although not brimming with demo material, a strong soundtrack underscores a nicely atmospheric offering.
Dialogue comes across clearly and coherently throughout, dominating the frontal array for the majority of the proceedings, and offering excellent coverage of vocals both quiet and menacing, and loud and invasive. Effects are largely ambient, bringing the coastal environment to life, with gusting winds, crackling leaves, creaking boards, crashing waves, chirping birds, thrumming car engines and clinking glasses. There’s nothing particularly penetrating – although the gunshots ring out – but it’s all given fine treatment across the array, bringing the environment to life.
The soundtrack is peppered with song tracks that bring life to the proceedings, but the haunting and evocative score should be acknowledged too, penetrating and powerful. Overall, whilst hard to approve as demo material, this is a very good track which comes just shy of reference marks.
Calvary Blu-ray Extra FeaturesA blistering number of Interviews adorn the disc, allowing us snippets from just about every cast and crew member, large or small. It would have been nice to have a Commentary from Gleeson and the Director, particularly given that this is their second outing together, but nobody can complain about the multitude of Interviews that are offered instead. A series of Preview Trailers play on disc startup.
Is Calvary Blu-ray worth BuyingDon't expect the same kind of buddy-buddy action-comedy of The Guard, although you can see how these two came from the same filmmaking team. This time around, however, director McDonagh and his powerhouse star Gleeson have turned in a stellar character dissection, featuring a soulful performance from the man himself. Although perhaps McDonagh tries too hard to bring things to a poignant conclusion, and unfortunately arguably fails, it's still worth watching for Gleeson alone.
A soulful character study of a truly good priest.
This Region B-locked disc sports stunning video and impressive audio, as well as a comprehensive selection of Interviews with practically the entire cast and crew. Fans should consider it a must-have purchase, whilst those who enjoyed The Guard should definitely check it out even if, to some, Calvary may be Only God Forgives to The Guard's Drive.
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