John Michael McDonagh's Calvary is an early contender for best independent movie of the year, while Brendan Gleeson's lead performance as a good priest facing a death threat is perhaps unrivalled as the year's finest.

Brendan GleesonBrendan Gleeson [L] and Kelly Reilly [R] in 'Calvary'

Gleeson's Father James Lavelle is the flip side to Sergeant Gerry Boyle in McDonagh's critically acclaimed The Guard - a good man intent on making the world a better place. However, one day, is life is threatened during confession and the forces of darkness begin to close in around him.

"...this is a movie that's packed with surprises, as each encounter plays out for both comical and dramatic impact in a gorgeous coastal landscape," said our very own Rich Cline.

"It presents us with a satirical image of a country which is cracked and fractured into pieces, a crazy-paving that isn't fitting together. Without the powerfully charismatic Gleeson, I suspect, the film itself wouldn't fit together," wrote Peter Bradshaw of The Guardian.

"Calvary's meet-and-greet structure lets McDonagh tease away at the fabric of Irish society, diagnosing all manner of ills," said Tim Robey of The Telegraph.

Brendan GleesonBrendan Gleeson [L] and Chris O'Dowd [R] in 'Calvary'

"Part Father Ted, part Tarantino, this is a wickedly funny black comedy, all fatalism and gallows humour, with a beating heart," said Cath Clarke of Time Out.

"Calvary is gripping, moving, funny and troubling, down to an uncompromising yet uncynical finish," said Kim Newman of Empire magazine.

Calvary, co-starring Chris O'Dowd, Kelly Reilly, Aidan Gillen, is out in cinemas on Friday (April 11, 2014). 

Watch the 'Calvary' trailer: