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film reel image

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Hail, Caesar! 2016 * * * Stars

Hail, Caesar!Directors: Ethan Coen, Joel Coen
Year: 2016
Rated PG-13
Rating: * * * Stars
Cast: George Clooney, Josh Brolin, Scarlett Johansson, Tilda Swinton

Quirky and lingering, that's the Coen brothers way. And with a certain talent in every frame, Hail, Caesar! is a tribute to the movies or a tribute to their love of movies. Containing sumptuous period detail, a surplus of big-name stars, and behind-the-scenes accounts reminiscent of Robert Altman's The Player, "Caesar" goes back to the 1950's film industry with Joel and Ethan Coen as its unequivocal tour guides. They weren't alive when classical, Hollywood cinema was a mainstay. However, it feels like Minnesota's favorite sons were actually there, in a former life sort of speak. Their characters talk quickly, their characters smoke tons of cigarettes (in public places no less), and even legendary actor Danny Kaye is mentioned. Ah, the good old days.

Anyway, despite being semi-unfocused and somewhat erratic, Hail, Caesar! is expertly directed with every shot obtaining a level of film noir gleam. With its simplified diegesis, there is a little time to kill. The Coens give the audience halting scenes where actors show off an incredible skill set. All you gotta do is catch Alden Ehrenreich performing lasso work (with a plate of spaghetti and a rope) and Channing Tatum tap dancing his arse off. Amusing.

Harboring a budget of $22 million, set in 1951, and dealing with antagonists straight from the communist party, Hail, Caesar! tells the story of Eddie Mannix (an excellent Josh Brolin). He's the head of Capital Pictures and a quote unquote "fixer". He oversees the budgets and attitudes of movie stars as well as keeping their scandalous behaviors out of the press. When his biggest acting commodity (Baird Whitlock played by George Clooney) gets kidnapped and put up for ransom, Mannix has to come up with $100,000 just to smooth things over. Things to look for in Joel and Ethan's 100-minute opus: 1. cinematography of the highest order with Roger Deakins channeling residue a la Martin Scorsese's The Aviator. 2. a couple of neat sequences where Brolin's Eddie is watching dailies (to a film buff like me, that's interesting). 3. finally, Tilda Swinton plays twin, gossip columnists Thora Thacker and Thessaly Thacker. Fostering a ruthless and shallow demur, she makes today's media seem like child's play in comparison.

In conclusion, if you're obsessed with cinema (I know I am), intrigued by the ins and outs of Hollywoodland lingo, and want to revel in the Coen brothers strutting their movie within a movie pedigree, then Hail, Caesar! will cure your wintry blues. All I gotta say is "hail" yes! Rating: 3 stars.

Of note: As mentioned earlier, tons of stars and Coen regulars inhabit little or almost no screen time via "Caesar!". It's as if they are doing a favor for their filmmaker buddies. Jonah Hill plays a surety agent for a production company, Frances McDormand plays a chain-smoking editor, Ralph Fiennes plays a patience-tested director, Scarlett Johansson plays an impregnated A-list actress, Dolph Lundgren plays a Soviet "submarine commander", and Clancy Brown plays a co-star of a flick starring the Clooney trouper. With so many notable faces, I thought I saw John Turturro popping up as an extra. If you happen to read this review, correct me if I'm wrong.

Written by Jesse Burleson


  1. Terrible film. Everything falls flat. The philosophical musings are shallow. I felt terribly UN-entertained, neither by comedy, nor drama, nor intrigue, nor meaning, nor sexual stimulation...a grand waste of money and talent. Did the actors, or anyone else, bother to read the screenplay, prior to signing on?

  2. I respect your opinion but I honestly liked the film. I don't feel it's about the story here. It's about the way the Coens film scenes. They're are talented directors even if they go off on tangents. I feel Hail, Caesar! is a movie for people who love old movies. At least a B grade.