The Priest Review & Rating
The Priest Review: Mammooty Vs Baby Monica Trumps Second Half Stretch
Malayalam Cinema has come a full circle this March. One of the earliest states to close down theatres is also one of the last to reopen the same after the lockdown. It's a great thing from Kerala - God’s Own Country. Taking care. Showing responsibility. Entertainment is needed. But it's not the top priority when the lives of people are in danger. During a pandemic. It was allegedly Mammooty who was the first person to write to the Kerala government to lock the theatres down for time being.
And it's he who has given the theatres a Big Bang of a beginning with his latest film. His fellow superstar and the other M - Mohanlal had given the first blockbuster after the lockdown with Drishyam 2. So, now the onus was on the Megastar to bring the fans to the theatres. And did he bring them! And how! The Priest has become the talk of the town everywhere. Right from the Kerala movie buffs to Mammukka’s fans across the globe to the businessmen who're involved with cinemas to the theatre owners who suffered the most... it's all about The Priest.
Let's see how this hugely anticipated and much looked upon horror thriller co-starring lady superstar Manju Warrier and Nikhila Vimal entertain you with The Priest review. The context is historical. Kerala theatres are back. The GCC circuit has seen massive response. And this is the third biggest Indian film at the US box office after the lockdown.
The Priest tells the story of a Christian Father who's away from religion to an extent. He's an investigator who often helps the police in nabbing the wrong-doers. He's currently busy with the case of a family where people are dying committing suicides but the family has no history of suicide through its bloodline.
The film starts eerily giving a hint of how this is all going to be. A woman soaked in blood is rushed to the hospital. The expressions and the tension in the faces of people and that is on the screen are expertly maintained throughout the film. The visuals are strikingly rich in horror. From there, the scene cuts to an orphanage where we get to see a girl with strange behavioural pattern. Like in those The Conjuring sort of films.
When such things happen, the attention quickly shifts to who's behind the mysteries and who's capable of solving the issue. The man who's able to solve this is none other than our protagonist. Father Carmen Benedict. The inimitable Mammooty in an atmospheric role. His languid walk is as swag-full as it is essential to be part of the atmosphere. His beard gives him an aura of mystery surrounding him. His voice is magically forceful but still makes people feel reassured when he's around them. But this swag-filled but understated walk isn't seen until much into the runtime.
A young girl named Diya (Saniya Iyyappan) approaches the priest Fr. Carmen Benedict to investigate about the incidents where suicides are happening one after the other in a wealthy household. He joins forces with a set of cops as usual. Even as the police and Fr. Benedict investigate the case, another suicide happens like in all good thrillers and horrors - quite unexpectedly - to give us (the audience) and the characters in the film (the people of that world) a big jolt. This comes as a shock for the team but they manage to get some clues (the story must move forward, no?).
Fr. Benedict comes across a little girl called Ameya Gabriel in the above said orphanage. She's a recluse and doesn't mingle with others easily. But a new teacher Jessy Cherian played with competence by Nikhila Vimal makes friends with her. She stands as a wall between the investigating Priest and the girl as she thinks the Father is taxing her beloved student. But there's more to these mysteries than meets the eye. One unexpected twist after another leads to a thrilling climax and a sharp cameo (SPOILER) by Manju Warrier.
Writing and direction
The debutant director Jofin T. Chacko has done a splendid job as a horror thriller writer. The mystery is intriguing. The twists worked well for the majority of the time. And when his inexperience might have spoiled the film, Mammootty’s mere presence comes to the rescue like the protagonist. And then there is the brilliant Baby Monica of Kaithi fame.
The narration is atmospheric right from the beginning. The screenplay is a mixed bag through. The first half is slick with a top class interval block utilising the towering performance of Mammootty but the second half appears a bit stretched until the last half an hour where the biggest of the thrills are hidden. Literally. The dialogues are apt for the genre.
Mammootty is in his usual elements. We all know he's an actor first and a Megastar later. He has brought his experience to the fore to help the narrative loopholes covered. His swag, understated heroism, and star power all helped take the film to the next level. His thoughtful gaze itself creates a chilling aura of mystery around his persona. The way he moves his head while speaking creates an amazingly chilling effect. It's a feast watching for fans, and non-fans alike. He's a master. And his performance has that written all over it.
Manju Warrier is another highlight of the film despite playing a smaller role. She matched Mammootty toe to toe as expected and we can't wait to see them sharing the screen for a longer period in near future. While Mammootty is the heart of the film who pumps the life blood, Baby Monica is the soul of the film who gives it a spiritual angle. Ironically. Rest of the actors did well including Nikhila Vimal. She manages not to get lost in the waves of power-packed performances of the other three stars of the film.
The sound design deserves a great deal of praise. Rahul Raj’s thrilling background score makes the interval moment one of the most memorable scenes in the film. The score for the entire film makes it a gripping experience. The cinematography is out of this world. The lighting pattern used for various scenes is great. The long shadows, the shorter doses of sparkling lights, the visibly eerie land and human-scapes all make for a great genre film.
The editing could have been better as at least 20 minutes could have been chopped. No, it's not a bad remark. To the contrary. But a horror thriller must be slick and at 140 minutes the film appears a bit stretched. Else, it'd not have received mixed talk earlier on the first day. The art department has done a superb job. The production is as good as it gets for a film of this class that stars Mammootty.
The Priest is a brilliantly made and technically sound film with top class performances trumping the fewer flaws it's narration has. A must watch for all the genre lovers. And a feast for Mammukka fans. Mollywood theatres couldn't get a better opening than this after a year of closing down. Highly recommended.
Rating: 3.25 out of 5
Reviewed by: GitacharYa
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