REVIEW: Hail, Caesar!

Posted 1 April 2016 about Hail, Caesar!.

A fictional film set forms the real film set for the latest Coen brothers picture. Set in a production studio beyond the peak of Hollywood's Golden Age, Hail, Caesar! details the occurrence and fallout of a handful of minor disasters, most notably the kidnapping of a major-league actor. But, it must be stressed: there is little more with respect to narrative. Anticipating the intricacy of previous Coen efforts such as the The Big Lebowski, or the engrossing darkness of, say, No Country for Old Men, will most likely lead to disappointment. Like its stellar ensemble cast, the film comprises an ensemble story, taking every opportunity to shed brief light on the plight of each of its characters, from Ralph Fiennes' ambitious film director lost amongst amateurs to Channing Tatum's A-list star-come-closet communist.

In the midst of the drama is Eddie Mannix, head of production and rendered with charisma and confidence by Josh Brolin. While chaos ensues, he is the constant tying all digressive threads together; we can only cling to him as he navigates from one catastrophe to the next. Mannix was a real-life executive, and indeed the rest of the folks in Hail, Caesar! reflect either particular archetypes or specific and classic icons of vintage cinema in a heartfelt ode to yesteryear's filmmaking. Naturally, good humour is also rife. In one notable scene we are treated with a series of takes of George Clooney's character on camera, clad in Roman armour, witnessing the grace of Christ and unable to cope with the emotion.

Produced with predictable finesse, all ends are navigated with the capable craftsmanship of two big-game players and the personnel that such prestige can draft. Positive results are almost guaranteed when a film - or anything else, for that matter - is taken for what it is, and Hail Caesar! is a sharp, funny, and fleeting portrait of but a few days in the life of a studio 'fixer' in 1950s Hollywood. Well, a fairly unusual few days.

Hugh Maloney

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