The power and the glory of the genre picture rests upon its peculiar epitomization of style and circumstance, refining a type until it becomes singular yet remains apart of the entire schema. To master the genre film is to unquestionably conquer the divergent elements of the cinematic craft, eternally binding imagination with introspection.
Priest, then, must be annexed in the annals pure genre magic. It is a picture which functions not only to entertain its audience, but to stimulate their consciousness and their exhausted senses. Director Scott Stewart is an F/X wizard who has obviously learned a lot under the tutelage of some of Hollywood's premier auteurs. With his overlooked directorial debut, Legion, and now this graphic novel filmization, the man is well on his way to becoming a master in his own right.
Themes of faith, hope and vengeance drive the fascinating religiosity of his work, never cramming it down our throats, only laying it bare like scars and war wounds. His penchant for genre melange is a strength as well, testifying to his utter delight in the filmic form, his obsession for the past and quest for tomorrow.
Priest takes place in a bleak apocalyptic future world, where the church is the ultimate political authority and priests have been trained as warriors and soldiers to battle a horrible race of vampire beasts. Out of this set up, Stewart awes us not only with a gorgeously morose outer world, but with a story and subtext which sublimates elements of cinema and religion. Don Burgess' visual spaces are fevered and action specific, emitting a gothic sheen that cuts to the heart of the story. Christopher Young's score is breathtaking as usual, centralized in a Goldsmithian theme of moving ambivalence.
Paul Bettany, the star of Stewart's previous film, abstracts his pale opaqueness and guarded masculinity, perfecting the priest anti-hero, on a quest to rescue his niece from a vampire super-being. Stewart surpasses the action stand-by with pulsingly planned and executed action scenes, only furthering the obvious fact of his gift for rendering the usually mundane heavenly.
Twisting the action, horror, sci-fi, and western genres around his devestating lens, homaging Ford, Miller, Del Toro and Proyas, a new talent is championed on screen, letting his images tell us he has mastered the future.