By Mark Saldana
Rating: 3.5 (Out of 4 Stars)
Joel and Ethan Coen are seminal artists when it comes to comedy. It really is great to see them back with an entry that completely embraces the genre. and one that delivers beautifully. Back in 1991, the Coens first did a satire on Hollywood titled Barton Fink. This movie which was set during the 1940s had a more narrow and specific focus. Hail, Caesar!, on the other hand, lampoons and celebrates the Hollywood studio system during the 1950s and has a much larger scope. Though the film works well, delivering over an hour and a half of intelligent entertainment, the broad strokes of the movie do leave some elements not completely realized and fleshed out. Regardless of this issue, though, the movie does offer the comic stylings that Coen fans know and love and they should still have an absolute blast with it.
Josh Brolin stars as Eddie Mannix, a studio “fixer” for Capitol Studios, a major production company that creates Hollywood hits. Mannix spends most of his days on and off the studio lot putting out fires and dealing with problems on and off the sets of multiple productions. The production on Capitol’s largest and most ambitious project, a movie titled Hail, Caesar!, hits a major speed bump when the star of the film, Baird Whitlock (George Clooney), disappears. Mannix soon discovers that Whitlock has been abducted by a group of radicals known as “The Future.” The mysterious organization demands a generous ransom in exchange for Whitlock’s release. Mannix gets charged with handling the situation, but still has to deal with the problems of other films, and has a few problems of his own in his personal life.
Written and directed by the Coens, Hail, Caesar! is an absolute riot! Joel and Ethan Coen have made a great film that manages to both celebrate and lampoon classic Hollywood, the studio system, the Red Scare, and other political issues of the era. The Coens (who also edited their film), their production designers, art department, cinematographer Roger Deakins, and choreographer Christopher Gattelli have all done exceptional work in the movie sequences which mimic some of the most iconic/cliche moments in classic Hollywood. Not only do these scenes look legitimate, but the writing is also often witty, intelligent, and spot-on.
As I previously stated, the Coens do falter a tad, because of the ambitious scope of their vision. A few of the jokes and gags fall flat and some sequences could have been more fully realized and better developed. Still, the talented brothers deliver, yet again, a highly entertaining and praise-worthy film which should not only please their fans, but also fans of the 1950s Hollywood era.
The cast assembled for this film is immense and extraordinary, but it certainly wouldn’t be a Coen Brothers’ film without some of their favorite stars. As far as the new additions are concerned, they too fit in quite wonderfully. George Clooney makes a most welcome return to the world of the Coens and has the talent and panache to pull off Capitol’s superstar, Baird Whitlock. Channing Tatum may be new to the Coen’s filmography, but his work in this movie will definitely silence any of his naysayers and will impress anyone doubtful of his talents. Brolin seems like he was born to portray the no-nonsense studio hardass, Eddie Mannix. Actor Alden Ehrenreich’s filmography may not be quite as extensive as some of the other big names in the film, but he certainly makes a memorable impression as Western movie star Hobie Doyle. Some of the other fine talents in the film include Ralph Fiennes, Scarlet Johannson, Tilda Swinton, Frances McDormand, and Jonah Hill.
Even though this film may not be quite as exceptional as some of their other works, Hail, Caesar! makes a damn fine addition to the Coen’s mostly amazing filmography. As the 1950s is considered to be the most innocent era in Hollywood motion picture history, perhaps it is rather appropriate that this may be their most accessible movie. That is not to say that the film is their worst offering either. The Coens may have done a little better in the past, but they have also faltered worse (The Ladykillers).