The Priest starring Mammootty is one movie that loses its charm as it progresses due to its script’s usualness. It is trying desperately to walk away from the familiarity. But all those attempts just stretched the movie far too much, and by the end of the movie, I felt that the script should have been tidier. The attempt is to create a supernatural thriller, but the packaging doesn’t have that crispness to make the twists and turns engaging for the viewer. Because of the background score and moody visuals, you might find the movie passable as a theatrical watch, but the chances of it staying with you for a good reason is highly unlikely.
Father Carmen Benedict has this parallel job of being an investigator. One day, a girl visits him and tells him that many mysterious suicides were happening in a particular family. Benedict decides to take up the case as none of the family members had a suicidal tendency. But during the investigation, he happens to interact with a girl named Ameya whose behavior bothered him. The Priest is basically Benedict’s efforts to understand the mysteries behind Ameya.
SPOILER ALERT! In the first half of the movie, even though things are not necessarily fascinating, there is an element of mystery around the script that gives you a reason to look forward. But when the movie steps into that second half, where most of the story seems to be happening in the flashback, you are given very less exciting plot points. There is a misguiding build-up to the movie that the makers break by the time the film reaches its halfway mark. But in the second half, when you as a viewer know the movie’s true genre, there is hardly anything exciting there. People were laughing and clearly a bit restless when the fantasy elements popped up in the script. I agree that even Hollywood hasn’t managed to crack a new formula when themes like exorcism are driving the script. But when you show the same stuff to an audience with greater content exposure, the chances of them not finding it exciting is high.
Mammootty plays the titular role of the priest. Benedict is a knowledgable larger-than-life kind of figure, and in that sense, the casting makes sense. Nikhila Vimal was good as the teacher character. Her character needed to have that immediate likability, and she was able to create that charm. Venkitesh fumbled a little bit with the dialogue delivery. Manju Warrier appears so late in the film that I almost forgot the fact that she was there in the movie. The actual heavy lifting, in my opinion, was done by Baby Monica, who played the character of Ameya. It was a pretty demanding role, and she performed it really well (appreciation to the girl who dubbed for her as well).
The story credit of the movie is given to director Jofin T Chacko. The script co-written by Shyam Menon and Deepu Pradeep is struggling to build intrigue in the second half. Similar structuring was indeed seen in movies like Anjaam Pathira and Forensic, and one can say that it is a narrative trait in thrillers. But here, the level of backstory explanations was exhausting. Many of the twists in the movie might have crossed your mind as a possibility, and when it finally happens, you don’t get to feel that surprise. What makes the film reasonably engaging is technical enhancements like sound design, background score, and cinematography. The cinematography follows a very contrasting lighting technique which keeps the movie in a very intense space. Even in moments that weren’t heavily dramatic, one could sense a bit of tilt in the framing. The visual effects were done neatly (I was really impressed by the visual quality of that Doctor Strange moment).
If you are a fan of movies like Ezra or Forensic, I would say The Priest might well be a passable movie for you. I wasn’t a fan of the Prithviraj and Tovino starrers, and for me, The Priest was a heavily stretched-out supernatural thriller that needed a better second half. After building an interesting premise, the movie went after a very familiar path of closure.
The Priest was a heavily stretched-out supernatural thriller that needed a better second half. After building an interesting premise, the movie went after a very familiar path of closure.
Green: Recommended Film
Orange: Okay, Watchable, Experimental Films
Red: Not Recommended