For someone like me who has been following the Wes Anderson films for a while now, It goes without saying that I surprisingly find all his films to be the same and yet totally different from each other. His presentation, his settings and his characters are exactly the same if you look at it in a superficial manner but then again they are worlds apart from each other in their nature, history and existence. The Grand Budapest Hotel is no different and once again it turns out to be a film which I could go on watching again and again and again. Broadening his palette from his previous outing which was The Moonrise Kingdom, Anderson takes us on another whirlwind adventure seen through the eyes of a Lobby Boy, Zero Mustafa (Tony Revolori) who accompanies the concierge of The Grand Budapest Hotel, M. Gustave (Ralph Fiennes) as he rises descends into a false incarceration from being a much celebrated concierge, his escape from the prison and proving his innocence, his achieving a mammoth financial holdings and finally his death by execution. All these events unfold in the fictions town of Nebalsbad between a period which is loosely timed at being between World War I and World War II.
The story begins with the author(Tom Wilkinson) introducing us to his own work and taking us through the fact that, the book, The Grand Budapest Hotel was not a work of fiction but was actually narrated to him by none other than Zero Mustafa himself during his stay at the hotel. The film then zaps back to a flashback and we see a much younger version of the author played by Jude Law befriending an older Zero Mustafa (F. Murray Abraham). Mr. Mustafa invites the author to dine with him and so begins the story of the Grand Budapest Hotel. M. Gustave hires and befriends a Lobby Boy in Zero who is without a family, any money or home. The two develop an understanding of each other which brings them closer. While visiting an old customer who was murdered by her own family led by her evil son Dmitri (Adrien Brody) and who had a soft corner for Gustave, he is falsely implicated of murdering the lady and incarcerated. Zero helps him to escape from the prison and the two set out to set things straight. During this period, Zero meets and falls in love with Agatha (Saoirse Ronan) who turns out to be his biggest support system. The film also has its share of baddies in Dmitri and his evil Henchman Jopling (Willem Dafoe).
As is customary with all Anderson films, the writing is the forte. The plot is an eclectic mix of drama, action, comedy and love. The drama is for real and you will be able to identify with the agony, happiness and above all the intense tension of the characters in the film. The film unfolds in flashbacks of the flashbacks and inter-cuts at many junctures but the screenplay is so smooth and lucid that there is practically no room for any confusion. The story is very much of the genre of adventure and yet there is a sense of serenity to the whole tale. The film also boasts of a prison break sequence which will rank right up there with the best.
The film unfolds at a terrific speed with each scene taking the story forward. The visual splendor has to be seen to be believed. The hotel in itself is a piece of art. The art department must have gone to great lengths to realize the vision of Anderson as it speaks volumes in every frame. The aspect ratio of the film keeps changing to blend in the panorama, the wide angles as well as the authenticity of the pre-WWI Nebalsbad. The cinematography speaks for itself. Each frame is so beautifully envisioned that it can easily be saved and used as wallpapers and that too of the highest order. The violence which is depicted is done with astute control and so that too makes up for a pretty picture. The special effects though used on a grander scale are done with aplomb and help make the film more believable and accessible.
The film has a huge cast and each of the characters have their own specific appeals. Finesse is the protagonist and also makes the most impact. He is closely followed by an impeccable Revolori who is a revelation as the young Zero Mustafa. Brody is apt as the marauding son of the widow played by an almost unrecognizable Tilda Swinton. Williem Dafoe is perfectly hateable and effective as Jopling. Edward Norton makes an appearance too. Overall, The Grand Budapest Hotel is grand in every sense of the term. It can be watched and enjoyed by audiences of varied age groups and tastes and chances are they will all love it.