Not only is Hail, Caesar! the best Coen brothers movie I’ve seen in quite some time, it’s the best movie I’ve seen in quite some time. Period. With award season finally over, the Coen’s latest offering feels like the perfect transition from the deadly serious Oscar-fare to the more silly, light-hearted films that come with the sunshine of summer.
It’s a film about film, in which pretty much anything goes. Set during the 1950s, a period which is considered the golden age of Hollywood, it has communists, kidnapping, submarines, hydrogen bombs and even a musical number. To tell you anymore when it comes to plot would not only be a disservice to the film itself, but would ruin what is one of the best parts about the film – guessing what will happen next, when really anything could.
All you need to know is that Hail, Caesar! should be every cinephile’s dream; a love letter from the Coen brothers to their artform, which pokes fun at itself in a very good-natured way. The setting of a film studio allows the film-makers, who over their career have proven themselves masters of genre, to dip in and out of different styles of film the likes of which rarely get made today.
Scarlett Johansson – doing her best impression of Singin’ In The Rain’s Lina Lamont – plays a newly pregnant synchronised swimmer struggling to get into her mermaid costume, in a brilliantly choreographed sequence of aqua acrobatics; Channing Tatum is at the centre of a musical number reminiscent of On The Town, complete with tap dancing and a surprisingly catchy tune; Alden Ehrenreich, who manages to steal the show from the likes of Josh Brolin and George Clooney, is a western film star forced to act in a dialouge heavy period drama, having just finished a movie called Lazy Ol’ Moon; and at the centre of the film is a biblical epic entitled Hail, Casear! A Tale of the Christ, whose production comes to a halt when the lead actor goes missing.
A combination of Roger Deakins’ cinematography and the Coen’s understanding of cinema, makes Hail, Casear! a delightful tribute to the industry. Deakins plays around with screen ratios, fonts, set designs and colours to create something which feels gloriously nostalgic. In spite of the intentional laughs, there’s no point where you think the productions that exist within this picture aren’t real, and the thought of the Coens expanding on the various movies is a tantalising one indeed.
Whilst it doesn’t hold up to the same levels of film-making that brought us Fargo, Miller’s Crossing and Blood Simple, this is a return to the Coen brothers at their most playful. Throughout, the amount of fun everybody involved is having is evident to see and that feeling is contagious. The general quirkiness of the picture, as well as the genuinely witty writing from Joel and Ethan Coen, lead to big laughs and an even bigger smile on your face from beginning to end – so much so my face hurt afterwards.
I can totally understand why some people may take to Hail, Casaer! in the wrong way, and it does have the feel of a film that will create polarising opinions. Personally, whilst I can acknowledge a slightly uneven balance of characters and narrative at certain points, some of the issues the film has were never that much of an issue where it stopped me from completely falling in love with it. It isn’t a masterpiece, especially by the Coen brothers standards, but it is genuinely witty, harmless, charming and, perhaps most importantly, a joyous celebration of the escapism and pure magic of cinema.
Image credit to http://www.impawards.com