With the glut of so-called faith-based movies last year in wide release, none of which were well-received by the mainstream media and only a few of which have even pleased evangelical Christian audiences, Calvary steps in as a welcome surprise. Neither preachy nor patronizing, Calvary is the story of an Irish priest, Father James (Brendan Gleeson), who is told in a confessional that he will be murdered in a week’s time. He seems to know who it was that threatened him, but he opts not to report the name to the police, instead going about his next week normally, loving the members of his parish and debating the merits of Catholicism with the townspeople. If the premise sounds gimmicky, director John Michael McDonagh and his cast manage to find the tenuous tension beween a whodunit and real-life stakes, capturing a small-town feel without adopting a condescending tone. It wouldn’t work without Gleeson’s steadiness in the central role; watching him stand firm in his faith in a real world not often seen in the movies deserves its place among cinema’s great pleasures.
Quicker take: Probably a stronger base of faith than any of last year’s “faith-based” films.