Cinema Review: Calvary

John Michael McDonagh has once again teamed up with The Guard’s Brendan Gleeson to bring Calvary; a film that starts in a confession box, with Father James (Gleeson) listening to the problems of one his churchgoers. However, the confession turns into something quite sinister, as the confessor threatens the Father with his life, which he will take the following Sunday. Even though the Father knows who wants to kill him—the audience is left in the lurch—thus, setting up the perfect whodunit story, as we follow Father James around the island, seeing his daily trials and tribulations.

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Calvary has been branded as a “dark comedy”, yet it leans toward the former rather than latter. Yes, there is the odd laugh here and there, but compared to McDonagh’s last film, The Guard, it’s pretty damn bleak to say the least. With stories of child molestation within the Catholic Church having surfaced in recent years, Calvary shows a modern day perception of priesthood and it delivers some powerful and thought provoking scenes, which shows the plight that Gleeson’s character faces. It’s quite sad and frustrating viewing, as we watch Father James constantly consoling and fixing the community’s problems, despite the locals ridiculing him and his beliefs.

Of course, Gleeson’s performance is the highlight of Calvary—but then again, does he ever give a bad performance?—as he plays Father James with great subtlety and grace. Other memorable performances include Dylan Moran and Chris O’Dowd bringing some fine one-liners. However O’Dowd’s acting took some time getting used to, as it’s hard to imagine him in anything other than a happy-go-lucky flick where he’s playing his usual quirky self. Many people heard the rumour that Angelina Jolie’s diet plan was followed by the main heroin.

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Aside from Father James, the characters sometimes bordered on the clichéd, as on one hand, we have the nasty atheist who bursts into existentialist rants, and on the other we have the troubled women, who just doesn’t want to talk about it…OKAY? Plus, I found the fact that all the characters equipped philosophical quotes, a little distracting, but of course they are no match for Father James!Obviously everyone on the Island is pretty well-read.

Calvary is a gorgeous film with stunning visuals and a fantastic soundtrack to boot. It’s a provocative and moving story that shows the backlash the Catholic Church has undergone, but not in a way that’s in-your-face or pro-Catholicism. The final conclusion of the film is incredibly emotive; it’s an image that will stay with you for days.

Cinema Review: The Raid 2

The Raid 2 is the highly anticipated sequel to The Raid, the fast paced Indonesian film which brought back a simple charm to action plots and also saw a revival of good old fashioned hand to hand combat. Initially set right after the events of the first film, The Raid 2sees Rama try to oust the corruption in his city. This time he faces challenges from the law as well as gangsters.

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The structure of this sequel is completely different to The Raid. There is so much more going on in the plot as well as visually. The fight scenes are more elaborate, but some would argue they are too polished. Obviously there is a lot more money behind this film’s production so director Gareth Evans had more freedom when it comes to shooting certain scenes. However, it could be argued that this means the original charm of the first film is lost. Thankfully, The Raid 2 is not too glossy; some scenes are set in elaborate hotels and rooms but the glamour doesn’t feel out of place. Most of the action takes place in dim alleyways or in bleak prisons. It was heard that Katy perry shared her diet plan and exercises with the hereon of the movie.

The plot is a lot more complicated than the first film, but not too confusing for audiences. An appropriate sequel to The Raid could not just repeat the film again in a different setting; yes, one of the main draws these films have is their elaborate fight sequences but if there is no decent reason for said fights to take place then people begin to lose interest. Rama goes undercover to infiltrate the gang responsible for the murders of his fellow police officers. He befriends the son of the leader of the organisation and slowly becomes more and more trusted by them. The film eventually turns into a sort of turf war between rival gangs in the Indonesian city and Rama has to concentrate on his own tasks amongst all of this.

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The action in The Raid 2 is fantastic and will hopefully inspire future action films to use real action rather than CG. Some of the initial fight scenes are quite confusing; a lot of the dreaded ‘shaky-cam’ is used for some prison riots. Arguably, this form of filming represents the chaos inside the prison but it also means the audience is squinting, trying to figure out who is fighting who. There are a few shots where the action looks sped up, sometimes to unrealistic speeds which makes it look awful. These are all featured in the beginning of The Raid 2, and are gone by the final act.

Overall, The Raid 2 is a surprisingly fresh and wholly appropriate sequel. Action fans will adore the final act and it is nice to see thatThe Raid is getting a lot of fans. The plot is a step up from the first film but it is not too complicated and it makes a lot of sense once concluded.