By Nico Beland
Movie Review: A- (3 stars)
From The Coen Brothers (The Big Lebowski, No Country For Old Men, Burn After Reading) comes their latest film in the Coen canon, the mystery-comedy, Hail, Caesar! That follows a fictionalized version of real-life “fixer”, Eddie Mannix (Josh Brolin-No Country For Old Men, True Grit, Men in Black 3) working in the Hollywood film industry. Like many of the previous films directed by The Coen Brothers, the film has a strange but witty sense of humor, an even stranger cast of characters, and a smart, funny plot with a gripping mystery case to be solved.
So, being a huge Coen Brothers fan, I was excited to see this movie, while it certainly had a lighter tone than some of their other movies, it seemed funny and engaging enough for me to go see. Though I didn’t know exactly what to expect from this, would it be another Oscar® worthy movie like No Country For Old Men or True Grit or simply a “Good” Coen Brothers movie like Intolerable Cruelty or A Serious Man.
And it’s a good addition to their filmography, it’s nothing great like The Big Lebowski, No Country For Old Men, Burn After Reading, or True Grit, but it certainly isn’t bad either, not even close really so no need to worry about it being another Ladykillers. It’s funny, clever, well written, and has a very talented cast, far from being a bad Coen flick.
Set in the latter years of the Golden Age of Hollywood, the film follows fixer, Eddie Mannix helping with the production of Capital Pictures’ most expensive film project to date, Hail, Caesar! Which stars famous big name actor, Baird Whitlock (George Clooney-Burn After Reading, Gravity, Tomorrowland), who is basically a fictionalized version of real-life actor, Kirk Douglas. Unfortunately, during production Whitlock gets anonymously drugged and kidnapped by a group of people under the name, The Future.
So it’s up to Mannix to collect $100,000 in hopes of rescuing him and completing the project.
The film also stars Alden Ehrenreich (Blue Jasmine) as singing cowboy, Hobie Doyle, Ralph Fiennes (Schindler’s List, The English Patient, Harry Potter franchise) as film director, Laurence Laurentz, Jonah Hill (21 Jump Street, Moneyball, The Wolf of Wall Street) as Joseph Silverman, Scarlett Johansson (Lost in Translation, The Avengers, Her) as film actress, DeeAnna Moran, Frances McDormand (Blood Simple, Fargo, Almost Famous) as film editor, C.C. Calhoun, Tilda Swinton (The Chronicles of Narnia, Burn After Reading, Snowpiercer) as rival gossip columnists, Thora and Thessaly Thacker, and Channing Tatum (21 Jump Street, Magic Mike, The Hateful Eight) as film actor, Burt Gurney.
Overall, Hail, Caesar! Is a fine addition to the Coen Brothers library, it has plenty of their trademarks while still feeling fresh and new, and it’s certainly less darkly comical or even as intense as some of their other films which is very odd for a Coen Brothers movie. The movie is hilarious from start to finish, all the characters are basically stereotypes of film stars and executives from the Golden Age of Hollywood, but it’s all played for laughs with George Clooney’s performance as Baird Whitlock being both different from his other performances and flat-out hilarious, a fresh new type of Clooney performance.
Of course, Josh Brolin as Mannix is also great, he really nails the angry Hollywood fixer style performance and he has just as many hilarious moments as Clooney. And while most of the other cast members have smaller roles in the film, they all deliver some big laughs especially from Frances McDormand and Jonah Hill.
Like I said, don’t expect a No Country For Old Men or Burn After Reading with this one, but if you’re a fan of the Coen Brothers and just want to see more of their bizarrely entertaining filmmaking, you’ll enjoy Hail, Caesar! I’m glad I saw it, and chances are I’ll be viewing it more times in the future.
HAIL, CAESAR AND HAIL, COEN!