Metascore
77

Generally favorable reviews - based on 42 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 34 out of 42
  2. Negative: 0 out of 42
  1. Reviewed by: Steven Rea
    Aug 8, 2014
    100
    Calvary is also just jaw-droppingly beautiful. McDonagh and cinematographer Larry Smith capture the four-seasons-in-one-day miracle that is Ireland, with its jagged stonescapes, roiling surf, fairie towns, and bracing skies.
  2. Reviewed by: Mick LaSalle
    Aug 7, 2014
    100
    One of the smartest and most impassioned films about Christianity in recent memory, though to say that might give the wrong impression. In tone and strategy, the film is low-key and subtle; and the story can be appreciated both for its surface qualities and its deeper intentions.
  3. Reviewed by: Mark Olsen
    Jul 31, 2014
    100
    The film is then not so much a meditation but a reverie, a swirl of emotions and ideas, managing to be both calmly reflective and skittishly anxious at the same time. Calvary is a serious comedy, a funny drama, a ruminative film about life and a lively film about death.
  4. Reviewed by: David Rooney
    Jul 31, 2014
    100
    Visually, intellectually and emotionally, McDonagh’s film is one to savor.
  5. Reviewed by: Kyle Smith
    Jul 30, 2014
    100
    Twice I have left a Calvary screening feeling dazed and moved.
  6. Reviewed by: Andrew Lowry
    May 16, 2014
    100
    Anchored by a truly sensational performance from Gleeson, this unexpected blend of passion play, detective story, rural comedy and serious inquiry into faith is destined for classic status.
  7. Reviewed by: Kim Newman
    Apr 7, 2014
    100
    On the strength of only two films, McDonagh and Gleeson are a director/star team on a par with Ford/Wayne, Fellini/Mastroianni or Scorsese/De Niro. Calvary is gripping, moving, funny and troubling, down to an uncompromising yet uncynical finish.
  8. Reviewed by: Justin Chang
    Jan 24, 2014
    100
    Grounded by a performance of monumental soul from Gleeson as a tough-minded Irish priest marked for death by one of his parishioners, the film offers a mordantly funny survey of small-town iniquity that morphs, almost imperceptibly, into a deeply felt lament for a fallen world.
  9. Reviewed by: Rodrigo Perez
    Jan 24, 2014
    91
    Calvary may not be for all audiences, with its pitch-black heart and sober existentialism not exactly commercial stuff, but its unwavering commitment to the intelligent thorniness of its themes, and the masterful control McDonagh exerts over the shifts in tone are worth cherishing, bringing it soaring close to something divine.
  10. Reviewed by: Bob Mondello
    Aug 1, 2014
    90
    Calvary is bleak and corrosively funny in about equal measure, with the rugged grey/green landscape suiting the harshness of the village's attitudes about the Church, and repentance, and the worth of good works.
  11. Reviewed by: Andrew O'Hehir
    Jul 31, 2014
    90
    McDonagh walks a hazardous tightrope from scene to scene, from amiable comedy to black-hearted farce to heartbreaking tragedy, often trying to strike all those notes within seconds. It doesn’t all work equally well, but the cumulative effect is powerful.
  12. Reviewed by: Amy Nicholson
    Jul 29, 2014
    90
    Gleeson is one of the finest actors we have, and in casting him as the lead, McDonagh stacks the deck so that regardless of our own religious reservations, we're forced to care about Father James as a man.
  13. Reviewed by: Glenn Kenny
    Aug 1, 2014
    88
    This is the kind of movie that galvanizes and discomfits while it’s on screen, and is terrific fodder for conversation long after its credits roll. Even if you are neither Catholic nor Irish, this Calvary will in no way be a useless sacrifice of your moviegoing time.
  14. Reviewed by: Claudia Puig
    Jul 31, 2014
    88
    Calvary is also profoundly compelling for the light it shines on how public attitudes have changed toward the clergy in the wake of the abusive-priests scandal.
  15. 88
    Calvary is a compact and biting tale of a righteous man being tested by his faith, his peers and his predicament.
  16. Reviewed by: Katherine Kilkenny
    Jan 24, 2014
    83
    Even as it delivers an emotional wallop, not every moment of "Calvary" goes down smoothly, as comedic scenes transition somewhat abruptly to tragic moments and the final reveal never reaches the heights of its Hitchockian inspirations.
  17. Reviewed by: Bill Goodykoontz
    Aug 7, 2014
    80
    The movie belongs to Gleeson, commanding in every scene, even when he's sitting silently, listening to another sinner go on about what's wrong with everyone else.
  18. Reviewed by: Joe Morgenstern
    Jul 31, 2014
    80
    It's a film of modest means and great ambition, a darkly comic drama concerned with nothing less than the place of faith, and an embattled Church, in modern life.
  19. Reviewed by: Tasha Robinson
    Jul 30, 2014
    80
    While it’s less playful and less giddily, enjoyably excessive than The Guard, it explores similar ground, as a good-hearted man largely abandoned by his community attempts to do the right thing as he sees it. But it brings in much more complicated matters of religion and morality, asking what it means to be a man of faith in an age of doubt.
  20. Reviewed by: Cath Clarke
    Apr 9, 2014
    80
    [A] wickedly funny black comedy, all fatalism and gallows humour, with both a beating heart and an inquiring mind lingering beneath its tough-guy bluster.
  21. Reviewed by: Xan Brooks
    Jan 24, 2014
    80
    Calvary boasts a sharp sense of place and a deep love of language. It's puckish and playful, mercurial and clever, rattling with gallows laughter as it paints a portrait of an Irish community that is at once intimate and alienated.
  22. Reviewed by: Josh Kupecki
    Aug 13, 2014
    78
    With Calvary, John Michael McDonagh (who wrote and directed "The Guard" and is the brother of Martin “In Bruges” McDonagh) has crafted a darkly hilarious and deeply ruminative update on the passion play.
  23. Reviewed by: Joe Williams
    Aug 14, 2014
    75
    Gleeson is great as the troubled, conscientious priest, but until an abruptly shocking finale, his fatalism turns the ticking clock into a congested hourglass.
  24. Reviewed by: Connie Ogle
    Aug 14, 2014
    75
    Filmed around stunning County Sligo on Ireland’s west coast, Calvary is a thoughtful, atmospheric movie despite the awkward parade of suspects and the fact that everyone seems a little too conveniently hostile.
  25. 75
    Calvary is an unsettling concoction, abstract and brutal, morally serious and too ghastly in its flippancy to be simply comedy. When you stop gasping at the shocks and jokes, there’s a profundity here, in the struggle to find the balance between outrage and forgiveness.
  26. Reviewed by: Michael Phillips
    Aug 7, 2014
    75
    Gleeson carries the film with wonderful, natural authority. He's a little better than the movie itself, which is glib to a fault.
  27. Reviewed by: A.A. Dowd
    Jul 31, 2014
    75
    Some of Calvary is uncomfortably bleak... But writer-director John Michael McDonagh—brother of the English playwright and filmmaker Martin McDonagh (In Bruges)—has an ear for wry humor, providing his characters with a steady supply of acerbic wit.
  28. Reviewed by: Rex Reed
    Jul 30, 2014
    75
    Downbeat, depressing and heavy as lead, Calvary is nevertheless an unusual film that never bores. Impeccable performances by Chris O’Dowd, Aiden Gillen, M. Emmett Walsh and Kelly Reilly are riveting. And Mr. Gleeson is a bear-like centerpiece of conflicts and contradictions who anchors the floating pieces of the Irish puzzle in faith and doctrine, while mercifully refusing to sermonize.
  29. Reviewed by: Dana Stevens
    Aug 2, 2014
    70
    Calvary gives Gleeson ample opportunity to explore his talent for anchoring a movie, making it deeper and richer than the script and direction might otherwise allow.
  30. Reviewed by: Anthony Lane
    Aug 1, 2014
    70
    The tension of Calvary is fitful at best, and much of the movie trips into silliness, but in Brendan Gleeson -- in his proud bearing and his lamenting gaze -- we see the plight of the lonely believer in a world beyond belief. [4 Aug.2014, p.74]
  31. Reviewed by: Manohla Dargis
    Jul 31, 2014
    70
    The limitations of Calvary are summed up by the insistent, dialectical chatter that almost mechanically pings and pongs between lightness and darkness, glibness and seriousness, insincerity and honesty, faithfulness and despair.
  32. Reviewed by: Peter Rainer
    Aug 1, 2014
    67
    Gleeson is a wonderful actor and he keeps a lid on the blarney. He manages to convey a lot – fear, anger, compassion, rue – with only the slightest of squints and frowns. But he’s still the center of a cooked-up cavalcade of souls.
  33. Reviewed by: Eric D. Snider
    May 16, 2014
    65
    The film has much more talking than acting, so McDonagh is wise to give it all the zest he can muster... But McDonagh, for all his agility as a writer, stumbles in fleshing out the story.
  34. Reviewed by: Tom Russo
    Aug 7, 2014
    63
    Taking its title from the site where Christ was crucified, the controversy-courting film has a lot of Catholic church business (and doctrine) on its mind, and veers from poetically eloquent to jarringly blunt in hashing it all out.
  35. Reviewed by: Mike Scott
    Aug 15, 2014
    60
    Calvary is most assuredly not a comedy. It is a weighty, powerful drama -- albeit one with comic moments -- that dabbles in weighty, powerful themes.
  36. Reviewed by: Tim Robey
    May 16, 2014
    60
    For all the film’s merits, the suspicion persists that McDonagh’s a little too pleased with his own fulminating thesis. Time and again the writing is showing off for effect, delivering a fire-and-brimstone sermon with cocky swagger.
  37. Reviewed by: Patrick Gamble
    May 16, 2014
    60
    By interchanging bawdy gaiety and a ponderous attitude to emphasise the film's spiritual message, Calvary feels extremely disjointed, struggling to balance its dualistic tone on top of its oversized ensemble cast.
  38. Reviewed by: Steve Persall
    Aug 20, 2014
    58
    Calvary becomes a lurid Agatha Christie yarn with something important to say about the church and Ireland that McDonagh can't fully articulate. Pulp keeps getting in the way.
  39. Reviewed by: Ann Hornaday
    Aug 7, 2014
    50
    As pungent as McDonagh’s writing is, it may be his too-easy pessimism that makes Calvary engrossing and thought-provoking, but not great.
  40. Reviewed by: Jaime N. Christley
    Jul 29, 2014
    50
    One may feel dissatisfied by the 11th-hour turn toward lyrical fatalism, and mildly insulted by the presumptuous attitude it seems to choose as it sends us on our way.
  41. Reviewed by: Joe Neumaier
    Aug 2, 2014
    40
    Calvary is like a philosophical Agatha Christie mystery. That’s certainly not the worst thing to be. But it’s also the film’s undoing, because the reliance on specific genre cliches undermines the movie’s more serious intentions.
  42. 40
    Those shots are in contrast to those landscapes, which are craggy, primordial. It’s meant to be a haunting combination, and I have colleagues who’ve found it just that, who came out of the movie ashen, devastated. But I found it bludgeoning — I think it gives new meaning to the phrase hammer of God.
User Score
7.7

Generally favorable reviews- based on 60 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Positive: 15 out of 20
  2. Negative: 2 out of 20
  1. Aug 5, 2014
    8
    Surely one of the best films of the year. Brendan Gleeson's bittersweet look at the role of the Catholic Church in the lives of modern people is darkly emotional, hilarious and fantastically fascinating. Full Review »
  2. Aug 4, 2014
    10
    This is my favourite movie of the year. Brilliant in all respects - funny, moving, thought provoking. One of those movies that make you sit there during the end credits simply trying to take it all in. Gleason is great and really needs to start getting the recognition he deserves. Full Review »
  3. Aug 9, 2014
    1
    Despite a capable lead performance and beautiful location shots, this has got to be one of the worst new movies I have seen in a very, very long time. Besides its wholly predictable premise (which is easy to figure out even without spoilers), the picture features a cast of largely reprehensible characters (most of them depicted as grossly overwritten caricatures) spouting some of the most ridiculous dialogue I've ever heard come out of actors' mouths. In the spirit of charity, though, all I can say is forgive the filmmakers, for they clearly know not what they do. Full Review »