TL;DR – Hail Caesar is an interesting film, with a lot going on, but that is much of the problem, its scattershot nature means the film lacks real substance, but it still has a lot of spectacle to make up for it.
Score – 3 out of 5 stars
This is an interesting film, but it is also a very flawed film and that makes it quite difficult to review, or at least score. There are some really interesting ideas at play here, and there are also some amazingly wonderful set pieces throughout which are a joy to watch. However, it is trying to do so much, that it just can’t do any of the ideas justice, so it just feels like a scattershot of a film, which is a bit a disappointment.
I should admit at the start that I tend to have a hit and miss experience with Coen Brother films, I have found films like True Grit and O Brother, Where Art Thou? amazing, however, some of their seminal works I have found really quite boring, yes sorry, I know, I know but yes I am talking about The Big Lebowski. So I come to this film not really sold on the Coen Brothers filmmaking style, and I left Hail Caesar not really changed on that front.
Amongst everything that is happening in Hail Caesar, the main story is about a day in the life of Eddie Mannix (Josh Brolin) who is a ‘fixer’ for the Hollywood studio Capitol Pictures. This means that his job is to keep the actors out of trouble (or conforming to their contracts), the keep films staying on track, and making sure the films don’t get slammed by the public or the media. Of course, the film does not actually tell you that is what the core of the film is, as Hail Caesar intercuts it at the start with films within films. This is one of Hail Caesar problems, the plot kind of nonsensical at times
The film, while fictional, is actually set during a very interesting transition time for Hollywood, and it does indeed play on the themes of Hollywood studios losing their monopoly on star and cinemas, the rise of the ‘Red Menace’ fears, also the rise of TV. To the film’s credit, it touches on all of these, as well as some of the things that bring into question the ‘rose tinted glasses’ view many have for this time in cinema. However, because it tries to cover so much in the film, that quite often it just feels disjointed.
However, while there are some problems there are also some truly wonderful moments in Hail Caesar. Some of the musical numbers are simply amazing, the choreography harkens back to those large movies in a way I have not seen in a while. As well as this, I have to say that Channing Tatum was really impressive here, and his musical number is one of, if not the highlight of the movie. It was also a little fun to see the unpacking of Marxist ideology even if they lay it on a bit strong, I mean the first time you saw them I was like “they are so secret communists” and I was right.
So in the end, if you don’t mind sitting back and watching a bunch of sometimes interconnected events happen interspaced with some amazing musical number and George Clooney looking confused all the time, then you will probably going to enjoy Hail Caesar. If you need a weightier plot then probably not as much, but hey, those musical number, they are top class.
By Brian MacNamara: You can follow Brian on Twitter Here, when he’s not chatting about Movies and TV, he’ll be talking about International Relations, or the Solar System.
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Directed by – Joel Coen & Ethan Coen
Written by – Joel Coen & Ethan Coen
Starring – Josh Brolin, George Clooney, Alden Ehrenreich, Ralph Fiennes, Scarlett Johansson, Tilda Swinton, Channing Tatum, Frances McDormand, Alison Pill, Veronica Osorio, Emily Beecham, Wayne Knight, Jonah Hill, Christopher Lambert, David Krumholtz, Robert Picardo & Dolph Lundgren
Rating – Australia: PG; Canada: PG; Ireland: 12A; NZ: PG; UK: 12A, USA: PG-13