Hail, Caesar! Is a typical Cohen Brothers film. It is atrocious in many ways, it is hilarious in yet others and it is unplugged entertainment for those who understand and enjoy the Cohen brand of entertainment. For those who are not into the Cohen Brother’s stuff, this will be a film difficult to sit through. The film chronicles the life of a studio fixer played by Josh Brolin through a day. The material isn’t something that will attract one and all but it sure has enough merit and meat to be stretched out to a hundred minutes of runtime. The sensational cinematography, sets design and sparkling feel of the 50s adds a dashing feel to the film which is not only alluring to the eyes but also caters to the viewer’s finer sense of artistic delight.
Eddie Mannix (Josh Brolin) starts his day with a confession at a church wherein he confesses to have continued with his smoking even though he wants to quit. Following the confession he picks up a heroine from a house doing a photo-shoot when she is under contract of Mannix’s studio. Then he rushes to watch the dailies of the enormous picture Hail Caesar! which also happens to be his studio’s biggest picture of the year. Following the show he sits with leaders of various religious groups to discuss if Hail Caesar’s photo-play insults or poses a problem for any of the groups. In the meantime the main star of the picture Baird Whitlock (George Clooney) is kidnapped by some communists who plan to demand a hefty ransom from the production house for his release.
Another picture running under the production studio faces a crisis when it is in need of a hero and the production house sends in a western film star to play a role in need of a thespian. The director Laurence Laurentz (Ralph Fiennes) tries to get Hobie Doyle (Alden Ehrenreich) to be the part but he fails and enraged Laurentz lays siege to Eddie’s office. Another Heroine DeeAnna Moran (Scarlett Johansson) is pregnant and is causing disruption in production of yet another film of the production house as she is unable to find a suitable father for her to be born child. Mannix must deal with that situation too. Whitlock who is kidnapped and in the company of communist writers begins to find merit in what they feel and do. Doyle finds another actor making way with the bag full of cash that he knew was handed over to the kidnappers. Doyle finds Whitlock and brings him back to the studio. In the midst of all this, there are the twin sisters Thora and Thessaly played by Tilda Swinton who are both trying to write about an issue of alleged sodomy between Whitlock and Laurentz for mutual benefits. Mannix in the end manages it all including his wish to may be move ahead and join a different job that pays better and has better hours.
Hail Caesar! Is a very difficult to review for me as I loved it but I know that won’t be the case with many others. So I will review it from my own perspective and will let the others decide what they want from it. To start with, I was hooked to the screenplay. I loved the way the film went. There wasn’t a single dull moment or even a brief lull. Yes! You can say that the song and dance routine involving Channing Tatum’s character was unnecessary and may be it was but the finesse with which it is executed just made it watch-worthy. The moves are swell and so is the way it is shot. Also the fact that there is a lot happening in the background of this song makes it somewhat interesting.
Each of the characters are just given enough time to make an impact and the screenplay is not stretched at all. Each of the pieces executes as a stand-alone story tied together by a common thread that is Eddie. Each of the stories has its own beginning middle and a roaring climax. Thus in many ways the film has multiple climaxes which just happen to be almost at the same time. There is enough comedy and drama to keep you interested. It’s actually more of a comedy than drama and most of the comedy tends to be derived from the pretense of the characters.
The performances are great. Really there is practically no room for any complain about any of the characters. Josh Brolin is a great actor and I loved his act. He is so natural and his act so engrossing and believable that I could barely take my eyes off him everytime he came on screen. George Clooney is superb. His act of a pretentious super star who just starts going the Communist way is hilarious. Alden Ehrenreich plays Hobie Doyle with panache. There is a scene where Laurentz played by Ralph Fiennes tries to teach him to speak just one line. They go over it again and again and again. This scene alone will make you roll with laughter. Speaking of Fiennes, he has a short role but he does well. Scarlett Johansson is great as usual.
The film is breathtaking to look at. The cinematography is so beautiful that out of the couple of times I watched this film, a few was just to enjoy the look and feel. It is perfectly edited and scored too. There is some interesting play with the aspect ratio which I will let you see for yourself. But all in all it all adds up to making the film visually captivating and engrossing. There is a dance sequence involving Scarlett Johansson playing a mermaid. Watch out for that one. Hail Caesar! Is not a film for everyone. But for its target audience it is a great offering. I really liked this film for what it is and that should be the case with you too if you are able to accept it for what it is.
Rating: 3.5/5 (3.5 out of 5 Stars)