VOD film review: The Secret of Kells
James R | On 01, Nov 2021
Director: Tomm Moore, Nora Twomey
Cast: Brendan Gleeson, Evan McGuire, Christen Mooney
There aren’t many film studios that are consistently distinctive, let alone immediately recognisable. Cartoon Saloon is a rare example, and that’s been true ever since their breakthrough feature The Secret of Kells.
The 2006 animation tells the story of the Book of Kells – an illuminated manuscript of the Gospel made by monks under threat from a Viking invasion. Co-directors Tomm Moore and Nora Twomey lean into the source material with confidence, producing a visually unique animation presents a fictional story of the book’s creation.
The film opens with a chicken being chased but we soon learn that there are greater concerns at hand: Abbott Cellach (Brendon Gleeson) is determined to build a fortified wall around the Abbey of Kells to keep out the Vikings. His young nephew and apprentice, Brendan (Evan McGuire), is concerned more with Brother Aidan (Mick Lally), a monk who has arrived from the invaded Iona with an unfinished book that provides hope and light amid the growing darkness.
Brendan is recruited into helping complete the book, even as violence looms on the horizon – a horde of dark, angular dread that feels strikingly ominous. The result is a dazzling blend of history and calligraphy that’s unlike anything you’ve seen – and sets the bar for one of the most interesting studios working today.