Hail, Caesar! Review

Director(s): Joel & Ethan Coen

Starring: Josh Brolin, George Clooney, Alden Ehrenreich, Scarlett Johansson, Tilda Swinton, Ralph Fiennes, Channing Tatum

The Overview

Whilst filming the biblical epic “Hail, Caesar! – A Tale of The Christ”, movie star Baird Whitlock (Clooney) is kidnapped, and it is down to hard-working studio boss Eddie Mannix (Brolin) to try and track him down.

The Good

Hail, Caesar! is a homage and a pastiche both to the Coen’s own movies, but also to the golden era of Hollywood, and this is something it does superbly well. We’ll get to the main plot later, but for me this film was at it’s best when we got to see the different films currently in production at the studio. From a lavish underwater affair with Scarlett Johansson as a mermaid, to a tap dancing Channing Tatum in a sailor suit, this was good light-hearted entertainment and did a great job of invoking some old-school Hollywood nostalgia.

The cast are absolutely superb, featuring some of the Coen’s long-term collaborators, plus some new additions. Some add more to the overall plot than others, but all of them pay their dues and provide some kind of entertainment along the way. For me the highlights were Ralph Fiennes who has an utterly scene-stealing appearance as director Laurence Laurentz, and George Clooney, who did a great job of hamming it up in the spoof swords and sandals epic, “Hail, Caesar! – A Tale of the Christ”. Brolin is also solid as Eddie Mannix, and Tilda Swinton is hilarious as twin sisters Thora and Thessaly Thacker.

Once again the Coen’s bring in their faithful cinematographer, and my favourite, Roger Deakins. Aesthetically this film does not disappoint, and the different looks created for each of the different “films within the film”, and the film itself, absolutely have to be commended. I love a pretty film, and Hail, Caesar! is undoubtedly beautiful to look at.

As the film progresses, the lines between the films and reality become increasingly blurred, as one genius scene involving a submarine perfectly demonstrates. As ridiculous as parts of it were, this was the most enjoyable thing for me.

The Bad

There’s really only one thing that lets this down for me, and that’s the plot. As a pretty important part of the film, I could see why this would mean some people wouldn’t get a lot out of Hail, Caesar!

The plot is incoherent and lacks the substance to string together the scenes of “pizzazz” when we see the snapshots from the fake films. The main plot involving the kidnapping of Baird Whitlock, and something to do with communists, feels a bit shoehorned in. It has a great script, and plenty of trademark Coen brothers deadpan comedy, but I found my interest wavering as the film progressed as I didn’t really care about the plot. That’s not to say there wasn’t fun to be had along the way, but there’s no great point to prove, and limited semblance of a story.

The Verdict

I saw this movie and you should too. It’s kooky, fun and absolutely Coen brothers through and through. It lacks the memorability of some of their other comedies, and the plot is nonsense, but I enjoyed it, and if you’re a fan of their previous films, I think you’ll enjoy it also. I always have unrealistically high expectations for Coen brothers films, and it didn’t quite deliver on all aspects for me. I had a good time watching it, but don’t have a strong desire to see it again, which is a shame because most of their films have repeat watchability for me. Still, it’s worth a watch, and it won’t be for everyone, but there’s a high chance one of your favourite actors will be in it, and if you love the Coen brothers and Hollywood nostalgia, this is the film for you.  

Agree with everything I’ve said, or am I a terribly misguided idiot who has got it all wrong? Please let me know in the comments, and don’t forget to share as well.



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